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Trout Unlimited testimony on the Idaho Fish and Game Fee Legislation

Testimony for House Bill 230

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, My name is Michael Gibson, Idaho Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, I am from Boise. I come before you today representing our Idaho members and convey our support for H230.

Trout Unlimited is made up of angler conservationists with a mission to conserve, protect and restore Idaho’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. We understand the importance of a fully funded fish and game agency and their ability to efficiently manage fish and wildlife populations now and for the future. Idaho has arguably the best fishing and hunting opportunities in the lower 48 states and is the envy of the nation. We deserve to have the best and brightest personnel to manage this world-class resource. Fulling funding the agency allows them to find and retain qualified biologists and staff in a competitive marketplace.

We applaud the agency for “thinking outside the box,” so to speak, with their innovative price lock proposal. Price Lock, which rewards loyal customers who annually by hunting and fishing licenses, by holding their cost for hunting, fishing and big game tags at current levels, also helps recruit infrequent and sporadic purchasers of licenses and retain them in the system.

H230 also proposes a new revenue stream to address the challenge of big game depredation on private land and more money for hunting and fishing access programs. Further, a larger portion of each fishing license will go towards fishing improvements and fishing access.

While we recognize that asking sportsmen and sportswomen to pay more in fees is never easy, the bill before you today strikes a balance with keeping up with increasing costs, effective management of Idaho’s wildlife resource, protecting private landowners, increasing access opportunities and rewarding loyal customers.

With that I ask for you move H230 to the floor with a do pass recommendation.

Yellowstone Science Issue Features Native Fish Conservation

The latest issue of Yellowstone Science magazine focuses on native fish conservation in Yellowstone National Park.  There are several articles about native Yellowstone cutthroat trout including our restoration efforts in Yellowstone Lake (see pages 4-17 and 42-74 in particular). The article on pages 52-53 recognizes the hard work of the Yellowstone Lake Working Group, of which TU Idaho Council is an active member.
This issue, as well as past issues of Yellowstone Science can be viewed and downloaded here:
submitted by John Ellsworth, Idaho Council Yellowstone Cutthroats Coordinator

Top Ten Trout 2016

Welcome to the end of 2016 and our 8th Annual Idaho Trout Unlimited’s ten trout tales, or stories affecting trout, salmon and steelhead and their watersheds in Idaho.   You can find the previous top ten stories for 201520142013201220112010 and 2009.
  1. Simon Says.  US District Court Judge Michael Simon ruled in May 2016 that the 2014 Biological Opinion on the Federal Columbia River dams violates the Endangered Species Act for failing to protect ESA-listed salmon and steelhead runs.  Later in the year the judge approved a timeline for the federal agencies to launch a new Environmental Impact Statement process that will take up to five years to complete.  Public open house events were held around the region in November and December.
  2. Bear River Narrows Dam is still dead.  In 2015 the staff for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommended in an EIS that the license be denied for the Bear Rivers Narrows dam.  In June 2016 the FERC issued an official order (.pdf) denying the application for a federal hydropower license.
  3. Henry’s Fork Challenges.  As stated by the Henry’s Fork Foundation, “this was a year of unprecedented strain on fish populations and fishing opportunities. The Henry’s Fork watershed was not immune. The double whammy of early runoff and drier-than-normal conditions has robbed fish of sustained flows of cold water that they need. As we learn how to work with these challenges across western states, forging and sharing best practices watershed to watershed, your commitment to one of the world’s greatest fly-fishing streams is needed more than ever.”
  4. Arrowrock Intact, for now.  In May, the US Army Corps of Engineers stunned the Idaho Water Resource Board by walking away from a proposal to rebuild and raise Arrowrock Dam another 70 feet, adding to the already 348 foot tall structure and flooding more miles of free flowing, trout friendly waters in the South Fork Boise River and Middle Fork Boise River.  The additional backwater would convert the bull trout habitat to more seasonal slack water.  While the Corps determined the project has less than a 1:1 cost benefit ratio don’t count out attempts in the future to come up with a way to increase the reservoir.
  5. Water Sustainability Policy.  In November the Idaho Water Resource Board adopted a water sustainability policy (.pdf), an amendment to the state’s Comprehensive Water Resources Plan.  Thanks to efforts of many gourds and individuals including the Trout Unlimited Idaho Water Project Office the policy was strengthened and more balanced about multiple uses of water.  A prime example is the May 2016 draft policy makes no reference to fish whereas the adopted policy is does, and is better for it.
  6. Hunters and anglers support public lands.  A joint hearing at the Idaho Legislature in February was staged to hear from a couple of lawmakers from the state of Utah who visited Boise to pitch the Idaho Legislature on the Utah efforts to wrest control of public lands managed by federal government
    <em>Full house of opposition to state takeover of public lands.</em>
    Full house of opposition to state takeover of public lands.
    agencies with civil service professionals and turn the lands over to an uncertain future of state management until the next fiscal crisis occurs, where the lands would be vulnerable to sale and privatization.  The majority of people in the seats were there in opposition to this talk about transfer of public lands to the states.  Social media had churned through the weekend to get hunters, anglers, outdoors enthusiasts and conservation interests to show up for the hearing.  That there was no mingling among the crowd and legislators before the hearing indicated this was largely a Boise crowd who were there to show opposition to the land transfer ideas.
  7. Suction Dredge Mining.  The long-running, sometimes contentious topic of suction dredge mining of Idaho waters for “recreational” or commercial purposes continued it chronic presence in the state.  But some clearing of the issue appears to be happening, not unlike the shutting off of dredge discharge into a stream leads to a clearing of the waters.  First, the Idaho Legislature heard testimony on House Bill 510 in February and after three hours hearing from supporters and opponents of the bill (Trout Unlimited was well represented among the opponents), voted to hold the bill in committee where it died for the session.  Later in the year the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest issued a decision to allow for recreational dredge mining in the South Fork Clearwater River and a couple other streams under limited and strict conditions.  This decision at least provides an outlet for people at an appropriate time and place.  Finally late in the year the Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement and fine of an individual for violation of the Clean Water Act for conducting dredge mining activities without the proper permits.  We hope this issue can continue to be dealt with the rational approach demonstrated in 2016.
  8. eDNA. Use of eDNA is transforming aquatic assessment to be able to reach greater geographic areas to detect presence or absence of species.  Some interesting information about it can be found on this Forest Service web page.
  9. Pole Creek restoration. … enjoy this video!
  10. Fish Handling.  Angler awareness about the effects of how fish are handled as part of a catch and release fishery  (or variations like slot limits etc.) is leading to a burgeoning movement to raise awareness about fish handling practices.  See for example the keepemwet.org website.  Some progress was made on this topic with the early 2016 publication for the fishing rules.  See information about that at this story.

Salmon, Steelhead, Taxes & Dams

Sunday, July 31st, 2016 @ 6 PM
Best Western Lodge, McCall, ID

Monday August 1st, 2016 @ 6:15 PM
The Community Campus, Hailey, ID

In these presentations, Jim Waddell will be delivering a compelling presentation on why the four Lower Snake River dams must be breached. New light will be cast on the 2002 Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers. That report evaluates three non-breach alternatives and one breach alternative. Data corrections to the 2002 EIS identified by several recent economic reports developed by Earth Economics of Tacoma will also be shared. When these analyses are framed within the context of threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead and endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, they become an extremely relevant motivator for dam breaching in the immediate future and present a win-win-win opportunity for Idahoans.
About the presenter:
Jim Waddell, retired civil engineer from the Army Corps of Engineers, was Deputy District Engineer for Programs at the Walla Walla District during the 2002 EIS study. His spontaneous statements made about the dams at a community meeting in 2011 are featured in the 2014 documentary movie DamNation. Since then he has been working to shine a light on data from the 2002 EIS, and to correct erroneous assumptions made then. He is in a unique position to know the details and the story behind that report and the folly that has followed.

Yellowstone Meadows Report – June 2016

By Dave Sweet

I thought you all might be interested in a fishing report from Walt Gasson (Director, TU Endorsed Businesses) on a trip he recently made into the Thorofare to fish for native Yellowstone cutthroats with Dave Hettinger Outfitting. Please read his report at this link. Sounds like he not only had a great time, but also got to witness what can only be described as a remarkable number of cutthroats in the system. I know we sometimes get discouraged by the slow progress to recover this population of cutts in Yellowstone Lake; however, his report puts our work into context. Along with the sightings this spring of grizzlies again feeding on cutthroats, we now have further indications that our work is leading to success. And, it sounds like a significant number of other people made the same arduous trip to take advantage of the increasing spawning run. Not too many years ago, no one was going to the trouble of going into the Thorofare to fish! Walt is planning to write up his trip for an article submitted to Trout Unlimited’s magazine Trout. Hopefully, other publications will follow suit.

I would like to add my own observations from our angling days on Yellowstone Lake in June to catch lake trout for the telemetry study. Over 95 volunteers in 19 different boats were trying to catch lake trout in order to surgically implant the hydro-acoustic transmitters. We were targeting lake trout; fishing deep with big spoons. Yet, over the course of five days we repeatedly caught way more cutthroats than lake trout. In fact, the ratio was almost 3 to 1. This occurred over many different areas of the lake using what would normally not be thought of as cutthroat techniques. The results were quite surprising.

We should all feel a sense of pride that our efforts are paying off. Please share this report with anyone else you feel would like to read it.
Dave Sweet
Yellowstone Lake Special Project Manager, WY TU

Sun Valley Single Fly July 16-17

The Sun Valley Single Fly is fast approaching, and we’ve got a few spots left…sign up a team today! The SVSF is a really fun weekend that benefits our beloved Big Wood River, and Trout Unlimited and the Wood River Land Trust hope you can make it on July 16th and 17th.
We’ve got some incredible auction items this year – fly reels (Waterworks-Lamson, Orvis), fly rods (Sage, Winston), fly lines (RIO), a few surprises…and an absolutely amazing trip to Patagonia (Magic Waters Lodge)!
If you’d like to attend the dinner and fundraiser on Saturday night, but don’t want to participate in the fishing, you are invited!
Keep in mind that all entry fees, donations, etc. are fully tax deductible.
If you have any questions at all, please let me know. Hope to see you in a couple of weeks!n
PS – please pass this information along to anyone that you feel might be interested…
Best,
Chad
R. Chad Chorney / Big Wood River Project Manager  / 208-420-4096

Trout Unlimited 
208-928-7656 
308 N. Main St.Hailey, ID 83333 
http://www.tu.org

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Update

Cathy and I just got home from 7 days up on Yellowstone Lake with all of you. What a great experience it was for us. I have never before been involved with such a great group of volunteers who freely gave of their time, their resources, and their energy to help save an imperiled species, the cutthroats of Yellowstone Lake.

Even in the face of great adversity (real lousy and even dangerous weather conditions), not one individual complained. Everyone pitched in. We got rained on, hailed on, lightning struck close by several times, the water was rough enough on three of the days to pound even the biggest of the boats, and several of you fought off boat problems to go wherever your boat would go to help. In spite of all of the hardships, every morning each of you had a smile on your face and were willing to face it all again with unbelievable enthusiasm.

Read more