Welcome to the latest edition of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. Working with our friends at Unlimited trout, Backcountry hunters and anglersThe Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Everglades Foundation, Clean water captains, VoteWater.orgAnd Conservation Falcon (among other things) we make sure you have the information you need to understand the issues and form an informed opinion.
1. We must act to protect trout in the Big Hole, Beaverhead and Ruby Rivers
Twenty years ago, the Jerry Creek section of the Big Hole River had between 3,000 and 3,500 trout per mile – a number that draws anglers from around the world. The nearby Beaverhead and Ruby Rivers, while less productive, were also healthy. In recent years, however, trout stocks in the Big Hole have declined so much that estimates put the trout population in the Jerry Creek section at less than 1,000 per mile. The other rivers are showing smaller but still worrying declines.
The first step in solving the problems plaguing these waters is to examine the situation. So a coalition of lodge owners, outfitters, guides, shopkeepers and conservationists have sent a letter to Governor Greg Gianforte urging him to take three immediate steps:
- Coordinate an emergency meeting between businesses, lodges, guides, outfitters and community members to hear from affected constituents and better understand the state’s planned response to this emergency.
- Empower federal expert agencies to conduct scientific analysis to determine the cause(s) of the Jefferson Basin trout population collapse and possible solutions.
- Identify emergency funding to support any operational disruption or temporary river closures caused by the deteriorating state of Montana’s cold water fishery in the Jefferson Basin.
Signatories include Wade Fellin of Big Hole Lodge, Kelly Galloup of Slide Inn, Brian McGeehan of Montana Angler, Mike Geary of Healing Waters Lodge and Brian Wheeler of the Big Hole River Foundation.
They are asking anyone interested in this cold-water fishery to contact both the governor and the Fisheries Department of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Here you will find the respective contact details:
Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks
1420 East Sixth Ave
PO Box 200701
Helena, Mt 59620-0701
Click here to read the full letter to Governor Gianforte
2. The US Supreme Court weakens the Clean Water Act
The US Supreme Court today ruled that the Clean Water Act severely limits the protection of wetlands that are critical to healthy and functioning watersheds.
Govern Sackett v EPA, the court limited Clean Water Act protections for wetlands to those with a “continuous surface connection” to other “United States bodies of water,” removing federal protections for the majority of the nation’s wetlands. Previous rulings had protected all wetlands with a “significant connection” to US waters, and for decades the Clean Water Act has covered wetlands “adjacent” to those waters. In the case at issue, the court concluded that a landowner did not need a federal Clean Water Act permit to fill in a wetland that does not have a “continuous surface connection” to a body of water that empties into Idaho’s popular Priest Lake, the one important habitat for killer trout.
- The Supreme Court has narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act. on npr.org
- TRCP Statement on Supreme Court Weakening of Clean Water Act Protectionson trcp.org
3. Large algal bloom observed in Lake Okeechobee
Clean water captains Reports: There was general consensus that the algal bloom on Lake Okeechobee this summer would be significant after the two hurricanes late last fall churned up the lake, releasing semi-stabilized excess nutrients from the mud bottom and redistributing them in the water column where they can be more easily utilized by those harmful algal blooms.
Now we see these predictions taking shape. And since the lake is about half a foot above average for this time of year, there’s a risk of significant lake runoff along the coasts. The combination of a blue-green algae bloom that now covers more than 35% of Lake Okeechobee, increased lake levels and the upcoming rainy season does not bode well for what may be in store for this summer.