Federal Agencies are Planning for the Infrastructure Bill

Published April 20th, 2022 at Harvesting Nature.

In August 2021, the House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), also known as the “Infrastructure Bill”. While the $1.2 trillion dollar bill is geared toward improving roads, bridges, airports and ports, broadband internet, and water and energy systems across the nation, it also contains around $20 billion aimed at natural resources management, enhancement, education, and protection.

Projects to be funded include but are not limited to wildlife road crossings, reauthorization of the Sportfish Restoration and Boating Trust Funds for fisheries conservation, drought planning in the west, and other water quality improvements.

Funds earmarked for federal agencies will go toward projects of this nature, and other specific uses and programs identified by agency missions, and the agencies are thinking big. Summarized here are the funding amounts and planned uses for the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service over the next five years.

US Forest Services

  • $10 million – Decommissioning and removal of non-hydropower dams on Forest Service lands
  • $80 million – Collaborative aquatic-focused landscape-scale restoration
  • $100 million – Invasive species eradication at points of entry to Forest Service lands
  • $180 million – Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • $250 million – Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program

US Fish and Wildlife Service

  • $17 million – Lake Tahoe
    • Aquatic invasive species removal
    • Invasive species monitoring pre- and post-removal
    • Bio-security infrastructure investments
    • Develop a Tribal Trust for Lake Tahoe resources
  • $26 million – Delaware River
    • Fund the Delaware River Basin program, which provides matching grants for habitat conservation in the Delaware River Basin in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
  • $50 million – Sage-Steppe
    • Build on the current collaborative process with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and other federal, state, and nongovernmental partners
    • Defend and grow high quality sagebrush habitat “cores”
    • Sustain the region’s rural, natural resources-based economies and communities, including tribes
  • $162 million – Klamath
    • Klamath Falls National Fish Hatchery construction
    • Securing water for Klamath Wildlife Refuges and improving water quality
    • Implementing Tribal and stakeholder basin-wide Klamath restoration priorities
  • $200 million – Fish Passage
    • Fund the National Fish Passage Program to work with Federal agencies, State governments, private landowners, Tribes, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to restore fish passage and aquatic connectivity by removing or bypassing barriers.

NOAA – National Marine Fisheries Service

  • $77 million – Habitat Restoration: National Estuarine Research Reserves
  • $172 million – Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery
  • $207 million – Habitat Restoration: Coastal Zone Management Program
  • $400 million – Fish Passage
  • $491 million – Habitat Restoration
  • $492 million – National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund

What all of the above points to is better public lands access, fish and wildlife habitat expansion, and increased connectivity and genetic diversity for fishes at the landscape scale. Where and how the myriad projects to be funded through each of these avenues will occur remains in the works. Many will be funded through grant programs facilitating an application and award process to ensure the money is well-spent.

Raising Pheasant from the Ground Up

Sustainable farming practices to benefit wildlife is a topic for discussion in grain capitols across the country. To the farmer, the mention of sustainability may trigger consideration of production and bottom line. To the biologist, thoughts of crop rotation and managed fallow lands provide wildlife food, water and shelter. And to the economist, efficiency and bang-for-the-buck in the form of yield versus effort/acreage sewn would likely provoke a back-of-the-napkin chart explaining the benefits.

So how does one actually define sustainable farming? A combination of all of the above. Sustainable farming includes economics, reducing production acreage to focus on the most productive for maximum yield. The less productive ground can be leased into CRP or to an NGO like Pheasants Forever to manage for wildlife.

To take it one step further, habitat-minded agriculture may provide a mix of no-till planting and forage and cover crops built into rotation schedules. This permits soil replenishment and works to combat invasive species by providing different plant competitors, insects, and invasive plant treatment options. Forage or cover crops can be sewn alongside winter cover like cattails and other wetland habitats to reduce energy expense and vulnerability critters may experience when seeking food and cover in winter. Pollinators benefit as well.

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Sounds great, right, but are the benefits actually attainable? Absolutely. Case-studies have proven the benefits to the farmer and wildlife through these sustainable practices. Midwest farms have shown production of preserve-scale wild pheasant through habitat-minded farming practices while maintaining or increasing their bottom line. And who out there would argue that they don’t enjoy wildlife like upland birds? If you answered “no one”, we couldn’t agree more!

If you find this encouraging from any perspective, reach out to your local Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever Chapter. In southeast Washington/northeast Oregon area, contact us at bmpf@bmpf258.com for more information.

Can Hunting Keep us Human?

Paula Young Lee poses the question in the High Country News. If this strikes you as a philosophical diatribe, you may be correct. But in an era where hunting is increasingly despised (read: misunderstood), the deeper meaning behind such ecosystem interaction at the human level of cognizance is indeed ponderous.

Hunting’s broader importance to human existence reconnects the severance between human life-history and the complex society we have developed. Humans operate under the disillusion that humans are superior to the natural ecosystem, having no association with the natural world or ecosystem function. But the hunter views things differently.

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⇑⇑ Above: the author with a cow elk, his first, taken on the Idaho winter range, December 2018. Hard earned and well respected. The tags for this special draw hunt have since been stripped from the public and given to private landowners as depredation tags. ⇑⇑

“It may seem like sophistry to argue that hunting protects wildlife, but the act of hunting encompasses far more than shooting a wild animal, and it neither starts nor ends with a death. The hunt itself is part of a much larger continuum.”

Diving deeper into the meaning of the hunt, Lee discusses the spiritual connection between hunter and prey, and that the hunter views wild game as a blessed gift. Lee reinforces her point of the larger continuum through an economics analogy related to the gift of wild game.

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⇑⇑ Above: A successful valley quail hunt with two hens falling to a pointing dog and swift gun work. This interaction with the canine and upland bird plays a crucial role in spiritual rejuvenation for the hunter, who, in turn, gives back to conservation. ⇑⇑

“In a gift economy, the act of giving compels the person who receives the gift to reciprocate. A gift can be refused, but that refusal has consequences. Hence, ethical hunters reciprocate by protecting the wilderness, giving of themselves to ensure that the forest stays the forest….”

Hunting maintains our connection with and works to conserve our place in the ecosystem, and the ecosystem itself. The preservation of human nature.

From Raghorns to Riches

A special draw elk hunt in Idaho’s Unit 37, Big Lost Wilderness, gave us four seasons with warm summer sun, frigid winter temps, gale-force winds, snow and fog, forty-five miles of steep mountain terrain, botched stalks, and sleepless nights. What we took from it? Incredible scenery, solitude, mental and physical health, and in the end, a hard-earned, beautiful raghorn bull elk and heightened sense of respect for the wilderness.

Read the full story in the Spring 2019 edition of Strung Magazine. Available on Amazon and at most general bookstores and magazine retailers.

Raghorns to Riches (2)

 

Raghorns to Riches (3)