Thinking big, with NRCS help

Bull trout in the Upper Sprague, Klamath Basin

By Randy Scholfield

One thing TU has learned in recent decades in its stream restoration work: To have a lasting impact, you need to think big, on a landscape scale. Everything’s connected.

We’ve also learned that our impact is greater when all the stakeholders are working together. Everyone contributes.

These two principles are put into practice in a new round of project grants announced this week by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The RCCP program is an innovation contained in the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization, which was passed with the help of TU members around the country who advocated for strong Farm Bill conservation programs. The RCPP promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners, yielding landscape scale restoration for fisheries.

“Broad partnerships and large-scale restoration efforts are essential to successful conservation, but have historically been a challenge to implement,” said Steve Moyer, TU’s vice president for government affairs, in a TU release. “By providing grants for regional partnership efforts, the RCPP is leading the way for successful landscape-scale conservation that improves some of the nation’s best trout streams.”

The 2016 round of NRCS grants recognized TU’s cutting edge conservation work with several major awards for our project work across the country, including:

·         In southwest Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota, part of a region known as the Driftless Area, the NRCS awarded TU a five-year, $2.9 million grant to continue working with a range of partners to restore spring creeks, improve angling access, and enhance habitat on agricultural lands. The goal: the restoration of another 25 miles of Driftless area spring creeks.

·         In the Klamath River Basin of Oregon, the NRCS awarded TU and partners $7.6 million to address problems of drought and limited instream flows and external loading of nutrients into Upper Klamath Lake, problems that persist downstream through the mainstem Klamath River. Under this grant, TU will work with multiple private ranches on projects that will reduce out-of-stream diversions from designated critical habitat for listed bull trout and Klamath redband trout, improve water quality and irrigation efficiency, and restore habitat connectivity for these and other at-risk native species.

·         In the Nevada, Idaho and Oregon portions of the Owyhee Basin, TU will work with 17 different partner organizations to increase drought resiliency across this iconic landscape to benefit agricultural operations, rural communities and fish and wildlife.

·         In New Hampshire, TU is partnering with The Conservation Fund to reconnect brook trout habitat on the Beebe River. Thanks to a $524,000 grant from the NRCS, TU will be able to remove five culverts that obstruct fish passage in order to reconnect tributaries to the mainstem Beebe River.

The Driftless Area, Castle Rock

The coast-to-coast breadth of these projects highlights the ambitious scope of TU’s on-the-ground conservation work as well as the effectiveness of partnerships. Working together, we’re getting conservation done where it counts—on our watersheds, rivers and streams.

Thanks to the NRCS for funding this important work, and to TU members who are supporting these projects and helping to make our fishing better.

Let’s keep thinking big.

Randy Scholfield is TU’s communications director for the Southwest region. 


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