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Entries in public access (42)


'Ecosystem Management' Is Tactic to Restrict Fishing

Passed in 1973, the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) was much needed. Before then, we have given little regard to the damage that we were doing to fish and wildlife through pollution, habitat destruction, and overharvest. The gray wolf, the shortnose sturgeon, the whooping crane, and the American crocodile are but a few of the species brought back from the brink.

But soon environmental activists discovered that they could use the act to impose preservationist agendas, under the guise of saving endangered species. They started suing the federal government to force action.

As a result, the ESA now has become a polarizing force, as examples abound of the federal government abusing its power to seize and/or deny use of privately owned lands and waters. Sadly, some property owners even practice “shoot, shovel, and shut up” as a means of protecting themselves.

And now the environmentalists, financed by Pew Charitable Trusts, want to use the same tactic to restrict fishing by imposing “ecosystem-based fisheries management.” It’s simply the ESA by another name, with the focus on our waters.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance reports this Pew strategy:

“Ecosystem-based fisheries management could ensure the long-term health of our fisheries and the communities that depend on them for recreation, employment, and nutrition," with environmental advocates describing the vague term as a system to "account for the protection of important habitats, consider the critical role of prey, or forage fish, in the food web, and reduce the waste of non-target species through bycatch."

And in response, Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, says this:

"Pew Charitable Trusts wants ecosystem protections put into the federal fisheries law. That way they've got a legal argument to sue and settle for increased fisheries restrictions.

"Under such a nebulous ecosystem definition, Pew and their partners would then have a legal challenge to close down any recreational fishery they choose by claiming the need to protect sea lice, spearing, oyster toads, undersea corals, even jellyfish."

In May, Pew will hold a forum for Connecticut anglers in what RFA calls the “Hijacking America” tour.

“The Pew script explains how ecosystem plans should be created and implemented across our coasts to further integrate ecosystem considerations into management, while appealing for support for incorporating ecosystem-based fishery management policies into federal law by way of changes to MSA (Magnuson-Stevens Act). Event organizers are hyping ecosystem-based management as yet another ‘new approach’ to fisheries management in their war on recreational fishing,” RFA says.

Go here to learn more about this and how Pew, according to RFA, is trying to recruit recreational anglers “willing only to speak positively about federal fisheries management policies that have denied anglers access to healthy, rebuilt stocks like summer flounder, black sea bass, and porgy.”


Many Oppose NPS Plan to Restrict Ozarks Access

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Sometime this summer, a new  management plan will be rolled out for two of the Ozarks’ prime smallmouth streams, the Jacks Fork and the Current Rivers. They are part of the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) managed by the National Park Service (NPS).

The NPS’s preferred alternative of four options is “B,” which includes access restrictions. Among them would be a ban on motorboats for the upper portions of the rivers.

Rowdy behavior, illegal camping, and unauthorized trails, especially in recent years, contributed to consideration of reduced access.

But the proposal has been vigorously opposed by many in Missouri, including state politicians, especially after the NPS tried --- and failed --- to have the White River watershed declared a federal “Blueway.”

“The rivers zone themselves. There isn’t enough river flow in the upper reaches of the Jacks Fork and Current for big boats to get there,” said Jack Peters of Running River Canoe Rental. “From what I’ve seen, there is no conflict there.”

In a letter to the NPS, 23 state senators said the following:

“We support the ‘no-action alternative’ to the current operating system. The ONSR value to the region is unparalleled. Do not adopt a GMP (general management plan) that is contrary to our wishes, those of our constituents, and the other folks who depend on access to the Riverways and cannot operate with additional government regulations.

“In our opinion, the ONSR is already over-managed with burdensome federal regulations. The Riverways support a vibrant and growing tourism industry that is critical to our region and state.”

Additionally, some even called for the state to take over management.

 “The creation and management of parks is clearly a responsibility that Missouri handles well. There is no reason to believe it would be any different with a state-managed Ozark Scenic Riverways. It's time for Missouri to begin efforts to reclaim this resource from the federal government,” said Lieutenant Gov. Peter Kinder.


Speak Up Now to Keep Biscayne's Waters Open for Fishing 

After several years of facing the threat of a large-scale no-fishing zone in Florida's Biscayne National Park, anglers saw a major step in the right direction last November when a new proposed management plan was released that no longer includes the unwarranted, and overly-restrictive, marine reserve.

Now your help is needed to ensure that the marine reserve stays off the table, and that the new plan allows for ample recreational fishing access and conserves the park’s fisheries resources.

The park’s new preferred plan eliminates the previously proposed marine reserve and instead proposes a special recreation zone along a portion of the park’s reef tract in which fishing would be allowed year round under a permit system. Recreational fishing and boating is still permitted in nearly all of the remainder of the park under existing state and federal regulations.

You have until Feb. 20 to provide comments to the National Park Service. Please take a moment to voice your support for maintaining anglers’ ability to enjoy the exceptional fishing opportunities at Biscayne National Park.

It’s important for all anglers to pay attention to and comment on the current proposed management plan at Biscayne National Park. Thanks to Keep America Fishing advocates like you weighing in, significant progress has been made on this issue. It’s critically important that anglers continue to make their voices heard and ensure that this process continues to move in an improved direction.

Some preservationist groups have already mounted a campaign for the National Park Service to go back on its progress and instead revert to a marine reserve – we need your help to ensure that doesn’t happen!


Why We Fish on the Radio


Please check out the radio shows and podcasts listed at the right and below. I was interviewed about my new book, Why We Fish. Hosts and I also talked about how and where to catch fish, B.A.S.S., and conservation and access issues.

And if you want to order a copy of Why We Fish as a Christmas present for your favorite angler, you'd better do it soon!

The Outdoor Guys at ESPN Radio in Kansas City.

The Outdoor Scoreboard Podcast.

Fish Bait Radio Show.



Don't Be 'Dead Right' When It Comes to Public Access

Most of the time, anglers are in the right in confrontations with property owners over access to waterways.

But there’s little consolation in being dead right.

Such was the fate of Paul Dart Jr., who was floating Missouri’s Meramec River with friends with this summer. After stopping at a gravel bar, they were confronted by a property owner, who told them to leave.

Dart asserted that he had the legal right to be there. The property owner disagreed, and, according to witnesses, shot him dead.

In addition to being charged with second-degree murder, the shooter almost certainly was wrong regarding his property rights, according to Missouri case law. But Dart still is dead.

Most times, property owners are content to hurl obscenities and/or squirt water at those of us whom they believe are trespassing. But a confrontation regarding access can turn deadly just as suddenly as can an incident of road rage. Consequently, you are best advised to motor --- or paddle--- away promptly if you feel threatened. Far enough, at least, to be out of firearm range. Then call police, if you believe that you are in the right, and especially if you have been threatened with bodily harm.

But how do you know if you are in the right? On most lakes and reservoirs, the issue usually is clear-cut. Contrary to what they may think, property owners do not own the water that adjoins their land. Yes, local regulations may restrict how close you can get to a private dock or boat house. If you accessed the water legally, however, you have the right to fish most of it. Still, don’t assume anything. Be certain of the law before you challenge those who tell you to leave.

For flowing waters, and the oxbows associated with them, the access issue is far more complicated and rights vary from state to state. Generally, we have the right to fish navigable waters from a boat, no matter who owns the adjacent property.

One overarching constant in this muddled mess is the definition of navigable waters, according to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations:

“Navigable waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the waterbody, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity.”

Still, a seemingly endless array of variables can play into the determination by states and courts of what flowing waters are “navigable” and public, as well as to what extent. For example, property owners in Virginia assert that anglers cannot wade a stretch of the Jackson River because they own the river bottom based on historical grants dating to the 18th century, before the colonies became a sovereign country.

In a case involving the Missouri River, meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the state of Montana has the right to protect the public’s use and enjoyment of rivers, regardless of who owns the bottom.  At the same time, though, the court decided that a utility that operates hydroelectric dams does not have to pay “rent” to the state for the river bottom.

Under the “equal footing” provision of the Constitution, states have title to the beds of navigable rivers within their borders. But that ownership is dependent upon the navigability of the water at the time of statehood. The court agreed with the utility that this particular stretch of the Missouri was not navigable when Montana became a state in 1889 and so could be privately owned.

Down in Mississippi, where anglers like to fish oxbows, the public’s right to a waterway applies to water between the natural banks. “The public cannot legally step out of the boat and onto the dry bank or bed of a public waterway without landowner permission,” said the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program.

“If the water has flooded beyond the natural banks, that is not public water.”

In many states, the “ordinary high water mark” indicates the limit to which anglers can go. Consequently, they are in their rights to use gravel bars when rivers are low during summer, as long as they accessed the river legally.

That likely was the case for Paul Dart Jr. and his friends who were floating the Meramec River. But, sadly, an ill-advised confrontation made him dead right.