WASHINGTON – With President Obama’s signing of the $7 billion short-term extension of the Surface Transportation Authorization Act on Friday, Aug. 7, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership calls for an increase in conservation-related policies and funding as Congress moves toward crafting a new Highway Bill in the coming months. The TRCP specifically urges the inclusion of conservation measures in the next Highway bill related to storm water runoff and promotion of sportsmen’s access to public lands. Congress is expected to debate new legislation in September as the current $286 billion bill is set to expire at the end of that month.
Earlier this year, the TRCP helped initiate the Transportation Conservation Coalition to proactively educate and engage with key policymakers as the Highway Bill takes shape. Made up of 54 sportsmen’s, conservation and other outdoor organizations, the coalition sent a letter outlining these recommendations to committee leaders in Congress.
“Whether a new Highway Bill occurs this fall or at a future date, now is the perfect time for Congressional leaders to consider ways to strengthen the conservation components of this broad-reaching legislation,” said Geoff Mullins, TRCP policy initiatives manager. “The last bill saw some key conservation gains in transportation policy, but there is so much more that can be done to protect crucial fish and wildlife habitat and promote sportsmen’s recreational use of public lands.”
The sportsmen’s group highlights two key components to a wildlife-friendly highway bill:
Storm Water Management: Highways are a major source of storm water runoff and ultimately a leading cause of water quality impairment in lakes, rivers and estuaries across the nation, including the Chesapeake Bay. The TRCP believes that all new and reconstructed highway projects should be required to assess and mitigate for storm water impacts, especially as they relate to sustainable fish and wildlife habitats.
Public Lands Access: Federal public lands and waters are an important destination for American hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Nearly half of all hunters conduct a portion of their hunting activity on these areas. Inadequate access to public lands is cited as a primary reason that hunters stop participating in this traditional sport. People who fish, canoe and kayak also would benefit from improved access to our nation’s rivers and streams. The TRCP believes funding and policy changes should be directed to the Recreational Trails Program and other areas within the U.S. DOT to improve public hunting and fishing access to these areas.
“The Highway bill has a tremendous impact on the quality of our hunting and fishing habitats,” continued Mullins. “Through proper planning and making science-based decisions, the policies set in this legislation can go a long way to conserving our fish, wildlife and the habitats on which they rely.”
Read the Transportation Conservation Coalition’s letter outlining their recommendations for the Highway Bill. <http://www.trcp.org/documents/transportationcoalitionletter.pdf>
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.