Asian carp study will finally see the light of day

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance…”

– James Madison, fourth American president

Next Monday August 7th, we will finally gain knowledge.

We will gain knowledge of options that federal officials have been studying to protect our Great Lakes from an Asian carp invasion.

After six long months of waiting, a draft study that looks at options to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes will finally see the light of day.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) first announced the Brandon Road Lock and Dam study in April 2015 as part of the ongoing Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin (GLMRIS) Study to prevent the two-way transfer of invasive species (including Asian carp) between both basins. This study is intended to determine the possibility of establishing preventative measures against an invasion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

The draft study had been expected in February 2017, but the Trump Administration announced they were delaying its release.  Without the public’s and Congress’s ability to review what options the Corps was studying, we were sitting in the dark without knowledge.  As we were kept waiting, the carp kept swimming closer to Lake Michigan.

carp map PRN

A live silver carp was found this June 2017 on the Lake Michigan side of the electrical barriers…raising the urgency for action. Map courtesy of Prairie Rivers Network.

Delaying the scheduled release, as you can imagine, sparked questions and serious frustrations.  Immediately, many Members of Congress (Republicans and Democrats) put aside their partisan differences and joined together calling upon the White House to release the report. While these lawmakers deserve much credit and appreciation for their vigilant efforts, the voices of hunters, anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts across the Great Lakes were instrumental in demanding this draft report be released.

Keep in mind this is just a draft study….halfway through an originally scheduled 3 year study.  So, we have a long process ahead of us before any action could possibly happen.  But, this is where we are.  Having this knowledge will empower us to review and provide our input into the final phase of the Corps study.

While the Brandon Road study will hopefully identify options that provide additional protection against Asian carp getting into the Great Lakes, it’s not enough to solve the overall problem.   Adding preventative controls at Brandon Road can only stop the upstream movement of certain species (including Asian carp) toward the Great Lakes. Brandon Road can never prevent the two-way movement of all species, and so will not protect against dozens of aquatic invasive species threatening the Mississippi River Basin.  A permanent, effective two-way solution is still needed.

The importance of protecting our vulnerable Great Lakes and all its freshwater from this voracious invasive species cannot be overstated.  Lets just hope that the release of this study will advance us closer to a feasible solution in order to protect the economic viability of the Great Lakes region’s $7 billion sport fishing industry, $16 billion boating industry, and $18 billion hunting and wildlife watching market.


Joint Statement on Planned Release of Brandon Road Draft Study to Stop Asian Carp 

(July 31, 2017) — On Friday, July 28, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would release the long-awaited draft study on options to improve defenses against Asian carp at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, on August 7. The draft study had been expected in February 2017, but the Trump administration announced they were delaying its release on February 28. The Great Lakes congressional delegation and conservation groups including the Indiana Wildlife Federation, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Minnesota Conservation Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio Conservation Federation, Prairie Rivers Network, and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation have been calling for the release of the draft study since then.

The following is an on-the-record joint statement from the Indiana Wildlife Federation, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Minnesota Conservation Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio Conservation Federation, Prairie Rivers Network, and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation in response to the planned release of the Brandon Road draft study:

“After months of unnecessary delay, we are excited that the potential options for improving defenses against Asian carp at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam will see the light of day. The voices of hunters, anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts were instrumental in demanding this draft report be released.  In addition, we are greatly appreciative for the vigilance of our Congressional champions in the Great Lakes region in keeping the protection of our Great Lakes fisheries and way of life at the top of their priorities. There is still much work yet to be done in this process. We look forward to working towards securing stronger protections to keep Asian carp out of our Great Lakes.” 


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What Will Be Lost if Asian Carp Invade the Great Lakes?

Great Lakes Conservation Groups Launch Video Series on Impact of Asian Carp


You have heard about these invasive Asian carp and how they negatively impact our water and native fish.  You also have heard about what they could do to our Great Lakes.  The problem is that after all these years….we still need action to protect our Great Lakes, our economy and our way of life up here in the Great Lakes.

Given this, a new short film series looks at what would be lost if Asian carp invade the Great Lakes. The videos feature businesses and individuals highlighting the economic, recreational, environmental and cultural losses they would suffer if Asian carp reached the Great Lakes.

We can’t replace this. We can’t rebuild this ecosystem,” says northern Michigan fly fishing guide Brian Kozminski, in the first video of the series. “I would be out of a job if Asian carp were to take hold in the Great Lakes.”

The films were produced for the National Wildlife Federation, the Prairie Rivers Network in Illinois and Michigan United Conservation Clubs to increase public awareness of the threat posed by Asian carp. This comes at a time when a delayed draft report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awaits a green light from the administration to be released showing options for stopping the invasive species’ advance below the Chicago Area Waterway System at the Brandon Road Lock & Dam in Illinois.

Asian carp are a threat to our Great Lakes, economy and way of life,” said Marc Smith, Great Lakes regional conservation director for the National Wildlife Federation. “It’s been eight years since scientists discovered evidence of Asian carp at the doorsteps of the Great Lakes, and we still need stronger action to protect our Great Lakes. Our goal with these short films is to remind people of the urgency of putting additional measures in place to stop Asian carp.”

Asian carp have been a disaster for Illinois’ rivers,” said Robert Hirschfeld, the filmmaker and water policy specialist for Prairie Rivers Network. “But we have an opportunity at this moment, if we take decisive action, to prevent that disaster from reaching the Great Lakes.”

MUCC’s members have long been calling for action to keep invasive carp out of Michigan’s waters,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “If we allow them to get here, they not only threaten fisheries in our Great Lakes but inland lakes, rivers, and streams as well.  We simply cannot let that happen.

New short videos are planned for release every two weeks and will be hosted on the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Office’s YouTube channel at and via its Facebook page at The first episode can be viewed at

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Bears Ear: The Hunters Monument

Today’s Great Lakes Outdoors guest writer, Lew Carpenter, shares his awesome experience chasing turkey’s in one of our newest National Monuments….Bears Ear National Monument.  Keep it public.


View at


Bears Ears: The Hunters Monument

By Lew Carpenter

May 22, 2017

Two weeks ago Secretary Zinke and the Department of the Interior announced that 27 National Monuments would be “reviewed” for what could result in changes meant to open land to energy development, threatening the values that make these places special. The public comment period for Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is much shorter than the others — clearly placing it in the cross-hairs of political impact. The deadline is May 26.

Today, our political landscape is fraught with misinformation, like the reasons given for scrutinizing more than 20 national monuments dating to 1996. I met fellow hunters from the New Mexico Wildlife Federation in Blanding, Utah, just outside Bears Ears’ eastern border, for few days of turkey hunting and to view firsthand one of America’s newest monuments. And to set the record straight, the hunting was fantastic.

Turkey hunting is an exhilarating, heart-pounding and skilled discipline.

bears ear

Bears Ears National Monument Image: Lew Carpenter

Easily picking up over-the-counter turkey tags at a small market, we headed to the forested butte, which is surrounded by magnificent, colorful, high-desert canyons. After setting up camp in the dark, 5 a.m. came early, and I headed off into the woods with Jeremy Romero, a New Mexico native working on the Upper Rio Grande Watershed of New Mexico and Colorado. Romero is an experienced turkey hunter, but this was my first time.

Turkey hunting is an exhilarating, heart-pounding and skilled discipline. Between the efforts to hide from a bird with keen eyesight and hearing, to the adrenaline push when a big Tom alternates between charging and strutting directly to your location — muscles quiver, the mind and body race within, knowing any movement or noise will bust the hunt.

Hidden motionless among the trees you become part of the landscape.

Romero plucked a crow call, known as a locator call, from his pack. The sound penetrated the silent, 28-degree morning air. Before the resonating sound finished, an eruption of gobbling pushed back to us with such force and enthusiasm I was in shock.

We found good cover with our backs against a tall bull pine. The sun was starting to rise. We could hear the fluttering of big wings as the turkeys dropped to the ground from their nighttime roost high in the trees.

Romero clucked out, mimicking a hen, and the dialogue began. Never having experienced the back-and-forth conversation between hunter and turkey, my heart raced. My eyes were sharp for movement in the dense forest. My muscles rigid in fear of moving and blowing our cover.

We could hear the chatter of another hen in the area, and that Tom eventually chose her. It’s hard to blame his decision — she came to him, while our calls required that strutting male come to us.

Five times that day we talked with the gobblers, but never had a shot. And the others in the group had a similar experience. The butte was loaded with turkeys. It was one of the greatest hunting days of my life.

Exploring that sliver of Bears Ears, with abundant turkeys, mule deer, and elk all around — it was easy to see this is a hunter’s monument.

bears ear 2

A hunters monument. Image: Lew Carpenter

“Miracles happen within this monument, and it can happen for anyone who comes to this place.” ~ Malcom Lehi, Ute Mountain Tribe

Later that day we spoke with Malcolm Lehi, of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, one of the first people to drive the completion of the monument. Lehi was on the Utah Dine Bikeyah board — a collaborative group of five tribes who spearheaded the original movement for a monument here.

He told us of the sacred history of Bears Ears, its cultural importance and his efforts with the five tribes — Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian Tribe — to secure this special place for the future.

“When I came into the picture I asked my chairman to be involved because some others did not want to. They thought it was about the Navajo,” said Lehi.

bears ear 3

Malcom Lehi shares the history of the magic of Bears Ears and the making of a monument. Image: Lew Carpenter

“Five tribes came together, but in the past these tribes were enemies — but they came together and collaborated as one. It is a new age where we go into the future and work together and protect Bears Ears. We came together and met in each of our tribal places and culture centers and talked among the people and the people said this was unique.”

Lehi graced us with a hunter’s blessing in his native tongue. “Miracles happen within this monument, and it can happen for anyone who comes to this place,” he said.

Back at camp I was filled with an even deeper understanding of the significance of Bears Ears. The pieces fit together easily — wildlife, habitat, people, spirit and ancient history.

Jeremy Romero, NWF, with a big Tom from Bears Ears National Monument. Image Credit: Garrett Veneklasen, New Mexico Wildlife Federation

On the move early the next morning — a powerful wind in our faces — calling turkeys became more difficult. Snow flurries had been peppering us from time-to-time, and we could feel a larger storm bearing down upon us.

But the hunter’s blessing paid off, and Romero called in a bruiser of a Tom. It charged in on his calls like a thirsty demon, harvested by one humane shot to the neck.

“This mountain swallows your troubles.” ~ Davis Filfred, Navajo Nation 23rd Tribal Council

Later that morning we spoke with Davis Filfred, an elected official of the Navajo Nation 23rd Tribal Council. He explained the knowledge of his people, the sacred mountains of the four corners region, and Bears Ears significance within those sacred mountains.

“This place is an ideal place, with plenty to hunt,” Filfred said. “Before there were sheep and cattle, this was the place to hunt.”

Filfred is also a United States Marine Corps Veteran of the Persian Gulf War, and he compared some activities of that time to the struggles today to keep Bears Ears intact.

“When I was in the Gulf War, General Norman Schwarzkopf said bomb the runways, bridges and bases. But in certain areas he said no bombing, and people asked him why not,” Filfred explained. “He said, ‘That is their sacred ground, it is their holy places, that’s where they come and do their prayer, that is their churches.’”

“So how come we want to do that here?” Filfred asked. “Why do we want to damage this sacred place? This is our sacred place, this is our holy ground, and this is where we come to say our prayer, to lay down our offering. We want (Secretary) Zinke and the US government to say the same thing about this place, that it should not be damaged.”

“We have a lot of traumatized people,” he said. “The Vietnam veterans who went through Agent Orange and the PTS that haunts them. When they come here they relieve themselves. When you come here you forget about time. This mountain swallows your troubles.”

Filfred was right. Bears Ears had taken us in, and rewarded us with a good hunt and its magical scenery and wildlife.

It is difficult to imagine why some would not want to protect this place, along with other national monument areas. To hear some call protecting public lands a “land grab” is preposterous — the land already belongs to us — only now it is protected for future generations. Bears Ears allows hunting, fishing, grazing — and it honors existing land use rights.

Bears Ears protects 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites. Our hunting and fishing businesses rely on public lands — including national monuments. And the outdoor industry accounts for $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs. Diminishing or rescinding national monument designations would have serious implications for the economy, the outdoor industry and hunting and fishing businesses across the country.

It is a great time to be alive enjoying this country’s legacy of public lands. We have the power to protect these lands — the ones that already belong to all of us. Please enter your comments to protect Bears Ears this week, before May 26 using the links below. Your efforts will be an important part of history. Future generations will thank you.

My time at Bears Ears confirmed what I already knew in my heart. National Monuments are for all Americans. And, as a hunter, Bears Ears has become a new place for me where I can hunt, quiet my mind and let the mountain swallow my troubles.



Lew Carpenter is the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Regional Representative for Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. He also works with NWF’s Austin office on restoring Louisiana wetlands.

Born and raised in Greeley, Colorado, Carpenter received a B.A. in Political Science from Arizona State University. After graduating in 1991, he launched AZ Sports magazine, which focused on outdoor recreation and participatory sports.

In 1998 Carpenter took the helm of Western Outdoors magazine as its editor, while also acting as an associate editor for Western Outdoor News, a weekly hunting and fishing newspaper reaching 70,000 sportsmen per week. Western Outdoors offered Carpenter the opportunity to write about the West, and for eight years he promoted fishing, hunting and conservation from Alaska to Baja, Mexico.

From the NWF Sportsmen Team: Stay up to date on the issues most important to sportsmen and women. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and sign up for our National Wildlife Federation Sportsmen Newsletter

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Bill Opens Door for Invasive Species


Zebra mussels hitchhiked into the Great Lakes in the ballast tanks of international ships. Credit USDA

Great Lakes Conservation Groups Denounce Bill Opening Door For Invasive Species

Senate Committee Attaches Weakened Ballast Water Standards to Coast Guard Authorization

Ann Arbor, MI – Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to weaken Clean Water Act protections that help prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters. The Coast Guard Authorization bill includes a provision, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), that would eliminate U.S. EPA’s authority over the discharge of ballast water and codify inadequate standards that will not prevent new invasive species from adversely impacting our Great Lakes.

“This bill needs to be stopped – it threatens our Great Lakes and undermines our economy. The people, businesses and communities that have borne the brunt of damages wrought by invasive species like zebra mussels deserve solutions.  This bill does the opposite by removing Clean Water Act protections that can help shut the door on future invaders.” said Marc Smith, regional conservation director for the National Wildlife Federation.  “This bill has no place in the Coast Guard bill—or any bill. The U.S. Senate needs to stand firm and reject these Clean Water Act roll-backs once and for all.”

The current iteration of VIDA is similar to previous versions. It eviscerates protections against ballast water invaders—non-native species that are introduced into U.S. waters by the discharge of dirty ballast water from foreign ships.  These are a primary vector for invasive species.  Here is a letter (VIDA Letter 5_17 FINAL) sent by a coalition of Great Lakes conservation organizations in opposition to the VIDA bill.

VIDA strips the authority of the Clean Water Act over ship ballast water discharges and preempts states’ rights to protect their waters. It freezes in place measures that will be ineffective at both preventing new invasions and slowing the spread of extant invasive species.

“This places the cost of combatting invasive species on taxpayers, rather than on the international shipping industry responsible for letting these species hitch a ride into our waters,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director for Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “We urge the Senate to remove these harmful provisions from the U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act.”

“This is counterproductive to the significant state and federal efforts to restore the Great Lakes and protect its $7 billion sport-fishery,” said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

New invasive species arriving through ballast water is one of our most serious threats. We can’t allow bad policy decisions to undermine successful Great Lakes restoration efforts,” said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation.

ship duluth harbor USACE

Duluth Harbor. Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Some initial media hits:

Bill Would Strip EPA Authority Over Ballast Water Pollution

New Bill Could Roll Back Clean Water Protections

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Hunters and Anglers Blast House Rule on Public Lands

The National Wildlife Federation has joined other sportsmen/women’s, conservation and outdoors groups to oppose a Jan. 3 U.S. House of Representative rule change that will make it easier to sell or transfer national public lands by negating their value when considering legislation. The groups that signed the letter to Congress represent millions of Americans across the country who hunt, fish, camp and hike on public lands and greatly value the fish and wildlife sustained by the habitat on public lands.

Check out my comrade Aaron Kindle’s blog that shared his wicked thoughts on this.

The letter is below.

Public lands belong to all of us



Jan 24, 2017

115th Congress

United States Capitol

Washington, DC 20004

 Dear Members of Congress:

The undersigned hunting, fishing, conservation, and outdoor-industry organizations and businesses represent millions of American sportsmen and women who oppose the recently passed House rules package that profoundly undervalues our national public lands.

 This move to alter the process of scoring legislation meant to sell or transfer federally managed lands eases the path forward to dismantle our uniquely American system of public lands. By designating land-transfer legislation as budget-neutral, and eliminating existing safeguards against undervaluing public lands, our nation’s greatest asset has been stripped of its true value. We want to be perfectly clear: American sportsmen and women are strongly opposed to giving away our public lands birthright.

Our nation’s public lands—including our national forests, BLM lands, and national wildlife refuges—shape our national identity. They are critical to the future of hunting, fishing, and wildlife, and the sustained economic health of communities bordering these lands. More than 72 percent of Western hunters and 36 percent of all American hunters depend on public lands for their access. Millions of anglers use public lands and waters. Public lands are a necessity to the $646-billion outdoor-recreation economy, and 6.1 million American jobs depend on these lands.

If public lands were sold or transferred to state or private entities, our very way of life would be in jeopardy, and Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy would be at risk.

 We recognize that the management of public lands presents challenges. We also acknowledge that some specific parcels of public lands have been legitimately identified for disposal, just as some lands have been identified for acquisition. We encourage you to focus on constructive and inclusive solutions to these issues. To that end, our community is committed to working with the 115th Congress to foster collaboration and to improve the long-term management of America’s greatest asset—the lands that belong to all of us.


Ø American Fly Fishing Trade Association

Ø Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Ø Hispanic Access Foundation

Ø Izaak Walton League of America

Ø National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative

Ø National Deer Alliance

Ø National Marine Manufacturers Association

Ø National Wildlife Federation

Ø National Wildlife Refuge Association

Ø Outdoor Industry Association

Ø Pope and Young Club

Ø Pheasants Forever

Ø Public Lands Foundation

Ø Quail Forever

Ø Quality Deer Management Association

Ø Snook and Gamefish Foundation

Ø Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Ø Trout Unlimited

Ø Whitetails Unlimited

Ø Wildlife Management Institute


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2016 in Review

As 2016 just came to a close (thank God), we might as well reflect back on the year’s milestone events that impacted the fish and wildlife of our Great Lakes. While the year held many successes, there are also many challenges that remain for us to tackle in the coming year. Here are just a few positive highlights of 2016.

I would like to acknowledge my colleague Jordan Lubetkin for his work in helping pull this list together…

Presidential Candidates Commit to Great Lakes Restoration


Author with the Candidates at the Healing Our Waters Conference in Sandusky, Ohio

The presidential campaign dominated the news cycle in 2016, and a substantial part of our work this last year involved drawing the attention of major party candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to the importance of the Great Lakes. At the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition’s annual conference in September, both campaigns expressed support for continuing federal funding for Great Lakes restoration efforts, recognizing the importance of the successful and popular Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, candidate Trump again pledged his support to Great Lakes restoration efforts as well as upholding the Clean Water Act. These commitments are hugely important to the people of the Great Lakes region. Now, the trick is  working with President-elect Trump to ensure these campaign promises are followed through with in 2017 and beyond.

Congress Authorizes Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Signaling Long-term Commitment



The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has enjoyed success for the last seven years producing results across the region with funding levels consistently at or above $300 million per year. However, the program was never authorized, so funding levels were subject to the interest and support from members of Congress and the President. Thanks to the Water Infrastructure Investments for the Nation Act (formerly the Water Resources Development Act), which passed in late December, the popular Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been authorized for five years at $300 million annually. In the coming year, all of us will need to push the incoming administration and members of Congress to fully fund the initiative to keep making progress restoring the Great Lakes.

People of Flint, Mich., Confront Lead Poisoning

Many people in Flint, Mich., still need to use bottled water to drink and bathe with due to ongoing lead contamination in their tap water. The water crisis has been going on since April 2014 when the city’s water was switched away from the Detroit-run Great Lakes Water Authority to Flint River water. Corroding pipes made the city water supply toxic, and many homes remain without effective water filters today. Tens of thousands of water service lines must now be replaced. In December, the U.S. Congress authorized funding for the city to address the monumental cost of replacement, which is good news. In the coming year we will be on the ground in Flint, working to ensure that the funding is spent wisely and reflecting the needs of the community. There is also important work to be done advancing funding for water infrastructure investments in the Great Lakes region and around the country. Old and crumbling wastewater plants and drinking water pipes should be a thing of the past, but without investment now—the nation faces more than $655 billion in needed upgrades, repairs and replacement—they will remain a problem for our future.

Conservation Leaders Beat Back attempt to Weaken Protections against Invasive Species

Zebramussel beach

Dead zebra mussels liter Lake Erie beach

If you live here in the Great Lakes, you certainly know that aquatic invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels are huge problems. Nationally, such invaders cost people, communities, businesses and utilities billions of dollars in damages and control costs. One of the main pathways these invaders take to enter U.S. waters is through boats emptying their dirty ballast water. In November, in fact, the EPA announced the discovery of a small non-native crustacean in western Lake Erie. The discovery followed months of aggressive lobbying by some federal lawmakers to roll back Clean Water Act protections to keep such invaders out of U.S. waters. Thankfully, a consortium of conservation groups worked with public officials to stop attempts to scuttle the most effective tool we have at stopping further invasions. The U.S. EPA is expected to announce stronger ballast water protections in 2017.  Moving forward, conservation groups will need to work to uphold the Clean Water Act and its protections against non-native species.

Region Grapples with First Great Lakes Diversion Request


Threats of diversions are real. Thankfully, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers understood this and changed the Waukesha diversion request to meet the high standards of the law.

Ever since the historic 2008 passage of a regional Great Lakes water conservation pact in 2008, all eyes have been on Waukesha, Wis. The community outside Milwaukee desired Great Lakes water—and its application for a diversion was the first test of the Great Lakes Compact. The city’s initial flawed application—asking for more water than needed, failing to take into account current water sources or treatment options, and including communities that had not asked for Great Lakes water—raised alarm bells with Great Lakes advocates. Conservation groups worked with governors and premieres to revise the application to ensure it met the standards of the Compact and protect the Great Lakes.

States, Feds Hobble Along to Help Lake Erie

Collin Algal Blooms

NWF CEO Collin OMara with Lake Erie glass of ‘water’ – The Blade/Dave Zapotosky

Two years ago, a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie poisoned drinking water for more than 400,000 people for three days. You would think that crisis would inspire a sense of urgency to solve the problem. Not quite. The good news is that in 2015, one year after the drinking water crisis, the states of Michigan and Ohio joined with the Canadian province of Ontario in signing a landmark agreement to cut harmful-algal-bloom producing phosphorus runoff from farms and other sources. Since that time, it’s been slow going. The state of Ohio’s failure to list the western Lake Erie as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act denies additional resources and expertise to help restore the lakes. Michigan has been mildly better. Both states are on the hook for action plans to reduce excessive nutrients into the lake. For its part, the U.S. EPA has refused to even act on Ohio’s and Michigan’s assessments of Lake Erie. State and federal agencies need to step up to the plate in 2017 to start making a dent in this problem.

Researchers Underscore Threat of Oil Spill in Great Lakes

mack bridge MPR

Mackinac Bridge and the Straits of Mackinac – credit Michigan Public Radio

In March 2016, the University of Michigan published a study detailing the risk of a potential oil spill in the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet. The study modeled what would happen under various spill scenarios, concluding that more than 700 miles of shoreline in Michigan were vulnerable to an oil spill from the twin pipelines known as Line 5. Later in the year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Energy regarding the company’s 2010 oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, which was the largest inland oil disaster in U.S. history. 2017 will be an important year in the effort to protect the Great Lakes from a potential oil disaster: Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board will publish a risk and alternatives analysis showing the best options for how to diminish or remove the threat, and a federal judge may decide a case brought by the National Wildlife Federation arguing that the Department of Transportation failed to assess potential impacts to the environment and endangered species and therefore illegally approved the pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Obama Administration Rejects Risky Mining near Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness


In a major victory for people who care about wildlife, wild places, and opportunities to fish, hunt, canoe, swim, and hike, two federal agencies rejected risky mines near the iconic Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Boundary Waters area contains more than a million acres of lakes and forests and is visited by more than 150,000 people every year. Although the mining leases were originally issued in 1966, no extraction has ever taken place, leaving the area largely pristine. Strong public concerns about acid mine drainage and other pollution that would threaten the area contributed to the government’s decision to deny the lease renewal.

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No Mining in the Boundary Waters

My former boss and mentor, the late Congressman Bruce F. Vento is smiling down on us right now.

The reason is that we just heard today that federal land managers decided to reject a proposed mine in the heart of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness.

Throughout his career, Vento made protection of the Boundary Waters one of his main issues.  He successfully fought to keep this place wild by securing portions of the pristine inter-connected waterways free of motorized boats.  So – as a result of his efforts, you can experience only the sounds of crying loons, the scream of a fly reel with a tight line, Moose splashing in the shallows, and ripples from a paddle as you portage a canoe just like the ol fur traders and pioneers did way back in the day.

Now, with this rejection, these sounds will be amplified!

For those that don’t know, the Boundary Waters Wilderness is one of the most spectacular places in America and a key driver of Northeastern Minnesota’s economy. The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a wild landscape of lakes, streams, woods, and wildlife covering 1.1 million acres along the Canadian border. It is the most heavily visited Wilderness Area in the United States, attracting more than 250,000 visitors each year from all over the world. It helps drive more than $850 million in economic activity every year that supports nearly 17,000 jobs.

So yes, this is a big deal! There are simply some places just too wild to ruin from development.  Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness is one of them.  Thank you to all the groups who worked on this, especially Save the Boundary Waters, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, National Wildlife Federation among others.

Below is a release by a coalition of groups…


Guided by science and public opinion, land managers say “no” to proposed sulfide-ore copper mines threatening Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Wilderness

Broad coalition of Minnesota business leaders, sportsmen, veterans and conservationists praise the decision & urge permanent protection


Next steps: Comprehensive environmental review will determine whether the watershed – which drives enormous economic activity as America’s most popular wilderness area – should be removed from the federal mining program altogether

 Ely, MN—Today, guided by science and public opinion, federal agencies charged with stewardship of taxpayer-owned public lands denied the renewal of two mineral leases adjacent to Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and upstream of Voyageurs National Park. The decision halts a proposed sulfide-ore copper mine project from destroying the pristine waters of America’s most popular wilderness area – a prime hunting, fishing and recreation destination that helps support 17,000 jobs and drive $850 million in economic activity annually. Sixty-seven percent of Minnesotans opposed the project.

In addition, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it will begin a comprehensive environmental review to determine whether the watershed of the BWCA is the wrong place for sulfide-ore copper mining and should be removed from the federal mining program altogether. Numerous scientific studies show the dramatic risk such a mine would pose to the water-intensive, ecologically sensitive wilderness of the Boundary Waters. Nearly 8 in 10 Minnesotans support such a study.

This past summer, more than 74,000 people and 200 sportsmen’s organizations, businesses, and conservation groups sent letters expressing support for not renewing the expired Twin Metals leases and protecting the BWCA watershed. Rural communities in particular benefit from recreation in U.S. National Forests, which nationally drive $11 billion in consumer spending within 50 miles of forest boundaries.

“The Boundary Waters is a special place for Minnesotans who love hunting, fishing and recreation and who depend on thousands of jobs sustained by America’s most-popular wilderness,” said Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “Science has clearly shown that copper mining would inflict devastating harm on this priceless wilderness. Today’s decision reflects strong support from a majority of Minnesotans who want to prioritize the wide-ranging value our communities gain from a healthy Boundary Waters, rather than open an industrial mining zone less than a mile from the wilderness edge.”

Rom added: “It’s a strong first step, but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure we can protect the BWCA for future generations. Our coalition keeps growing as sportsmen, veterans, businesses and other interests sign on to support our efforts.”

“The Forest Service and Interior Department have wisely recognized that the Boundary Waters is an American crown jewel too special to risk. Too special for anglers, too special for hunters, too special for canoeists and communities and wildlife. This decision recognizes that the long term values for the local economy and future generations far outweigh the speculative short term benefits of sulfide mining in such a cherished landscape.” said Collin O’Mara, President & CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.


Expired mineral leases held by Twin Metals were initially issued in 1966, before modern American environmental laws existed, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the law that requires environmental impacts to be considered before decisions are made regarding where mines can be sited. As a result, these leases never underwent environmental review.

The environmental review initiated by the Department of the Interior will be a comprehensive, watershed level analysis that will look at the value of the land and water, including their economic, social and cultural importance. The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a wild landscape of lakes, streams, woods, and wildlife covering 1.1 million acres along the Canadian border. It is the most heavily visited wilderness area in the United States, attracting more than 250,000 visitors each year from all over the world.

These decisions only affect proposed copper nickel mining in the Boundary Waters watershed and will not affect Minnesota’s taconite industry. Taconite and other iron deposits are in a different geography and in a different type of ore.

Sulfide-ore copper mining – one of the most toxic industries in America– has never been done before in Minnesota.  The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is a broad national coalition of business people, sportsmen, veterans, outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, and others that was founded by residents of Ely, Minnesota in 2013. The Campaign works to protect the interests of the people of the United States in a healthy Boundary Waters Wilderness. A strong majority of Minnesotans opposed the Twin Metals project, including 61 percent of residents in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District (which includes the Iron Range and Duluth).




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Where the Bison Roam…

While directing public lands work for National Wildlife Federation many years ago, I had the pleasure of working on efforts to protect and restore western public landscapes.   One of the many places I worked on were the public lands up in central Montana.  The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, and the Upper Missouri River Breaks country- or the “Breaks” as they are called.  These places have a vast openness and provide a sense of solitude.  And, the best part is that they belong to all of us.

Please read below a great blog by my friend Bruce Wallace, NWF’s Chairman of the Board, on his adventures here and retracing the steps of Lewis and Clark…

Exploring the Vast Montana Prairie

Area offers bison and outdoor enthusiasts room to roam

It isn’t easy to describe the immensity of the prairie in north-central Montana, where the National Wildlife Federation is working to restore America’s largest, wildest herd of bison.

I can’t say I fully grasped how vast the public lands are in and around Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge until a recent, blustery September day. We’d reached the area the night before, after a slow, bumpy bike ride across 20 miles of rutted dirt roads.

Rising at dawn to hike several miles through the surprisingly rugged Missouri River Breaks, my companions and I clambered into canoes for a brisk voyage retracing a stretch of Lewis and Clark’s route into the then-unmapped West, coming ashore at midday only to trade paddles for pedals. Some 20 miles to the east, our local guides told us, we would find our bedrolls and a meal.

And after that rather memorable day of plodding, paddling and pedaling? We’d crossed much less than 1 percent of the 3 million acres of public lands that make up the best and largest expanse of mostly intact prairie wildlife habitat in the lower 48 states.

Bruce Wallace and Susie Cannell biked through prairie dog towns and a black-footed ferret recovery area on their 50-mile trek to the American Prairie Reserve. Photo by Steve Woodruff

I had come to Montana to take part in the second annual “Transect” – a slow-motion exploration of the American Prairie Reserve, an ambitious project led by one of NWF’s conservation partners to secure, restore and promote for public enjoyment millions of acres of native prairie and wildlife. Joining me was my enthusiastic partner in all things, Susie Cannell, and we teamed up with a small cadre of conservationists led by American Prairie Reserve staff and officers.

The Transect is not so much a tour as an immersion in a wild expanse of timbered draws, rich river bottoms and seemingly endless sagebrush steppe grasslands. Moving at human-powered pace across a vast landscape gave us a tremendous perspective and sense of scale. Here we see conservation writ large – clearly one of the greatest conservation opportunities of our time.

Superb native habitat on public lands in north-central Montana are just waiting for wild bison to return. Photo by Steve Woodruff

This area was where explorers Lewis and Clark marveled at wildlife in abundance and variety beyond imagination. This was one of the last bastions for wild bison on the prairie before all but a few remnants were slaughtered over a century ago. NWF, APR and others are working to make it the first place wild bison return on a significant scale – envisioning a herd of perhaps 10,000 wild, wide-ranging bison.

With support and leadership from NWF’s state affiliate – the Montana Wildlife Federation – Montanans have already restored elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and mule deer to abundance. Even black-footed ferrets, believed extinct, are making their comeback here amid the many large prairie dog towns. Bison are next in line.

NWF is working with the APR and other partners to encourage Montana to designate public lands in and around the CMR as a bison-restoration area and accept some of the APR’s bison as seed stock. The APR has been working for years to restore prairie and wildlife in a way that combines capitalism with conservation. Raising money from donors, the APR acquires ranches on the periphery of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge on a willing-buyer/willing-seller basis. With acquisition of the ranches, the APR also obtains the grazing leases to adjacent public lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

NWF’s work includes negotiating agreements as part of their Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program to effectively retire cattle-grazing allotments within the refuge, further opening the niche for bison while reducing potential conflicts with cattle.

The American Prairie Reserve also is a great place for people to reconnect with nature. Photo by Steve Woodruff

The APR’s goal is to restore the lands it acquires to native condition, restore bison and other native wildlife to abundance, and use its property acquisitions to knit adjacent public lands into a prairie reserve half again the size of Yellowstone National Park. The APR now owns or leases some 350,000 acres of lands, all of which welcome public access and recreation. The APR also has established a herd of some 800 genetically pure bison managed as wildlife but, under Montana law, legally classified as livestock.

Restoring wild bison in and around the CMR is a tough grind, because many ranchers see bison as competition to cattle, and the issue is politically charged in Montana. But NWF is committed to resolving all concerns and conflicts through initiatives such as their Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program which works with ranchers to retire their public land grazing leases.

The days we spent traversing part of the CMR and APR by foot, canoe and bike included some tough uphill stretches. But it was worth all the hard work. We have more hard work ahead of us to restore wild bison. I have no doubt all that hard work will be worth the effort as well.

Help NowHelp give bison room to roam through NWF’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program


About the Author: Bruce Wallace is an Ann Arbor, Mich., attorney and Chair of the National Wildlife Federation’s Board of Directors.

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Big Deal for Merica’s Fish and Wildlife

Yesterday evening, Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Michigan’s (and my Congresswoman) Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced a bill that would direct existing funding from oil and gas leases to increase funding for proactive wildlife conservation.  This is a big deal for the future of our Great Lakes and Merica’s fish and wildlife. 


Below is the joint release about the bill…

Young, Dingell Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Enhance Funding For Fish and Wildlife

“A once in a generation opportunity to save thousands of at-risk wildlife species” – Collin O’Mara

Washington, DC (July 7, 2016) – Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) have introduced the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 5650) calling for $1.3 billion in existing revenue from the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands and waters be dedicated to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program to conserve a full array of fish and wildlife.

“Hunters, anglers, recreational shooters and motorized boaters, through fees and licenses, have been the backbone of funding the conservation of America’s fish and wildlife.  Over the years these original conservationists have greatly enhanced the State’s ability to perform science-based management of fish and wildlife species throughout the country,” said Dave Chanda, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Director of New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.  “Today we find ourselves at a critical crossroad and impending fish and wildlife crisis that could alter our children and grandchildren’s opportunities to enjoy these resources.  If we want to secure the future of all of America’s fish and wildlife resources, a fundamental enhancement in how we finance conservation is essential.  We believe the right path is to begin investing now in a 21st century vision for fish and wildlife.”

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, comprised of national business and conservation leaders, convened in 2015 to recommend a new mechanism to sustainably fund fish and wildlife conservation. In March 2016, the Panel recommended that a $1.3 billion trust fund be created using existing fees from energy and mineral development on federal lands and water to support implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans in every state, territory and the District of Columbia.

“As a strong supporter of conservation and sportsmen alike, I’m proud to take the lead on an important discussion regarding fish and wildlife conservation across the country,” said Congressman Don Young. “While we’ve seen many great successes in management and conservation projects in the past, this legislation takes a unique approach to allow states to make responsible management decisions at home. As someone who proudly supports the management of fish and game for all Americans – for sportsmen, subsistence purposes, and for future generations – I believe this legislation is a responsible first step in developing a path forward.”

“It has been proven over the decades that incredible gains in species conservation have been made with dedicated sources of funding,” Rep. Dingell said. “The Restoring America’s Wildlife Act builds off the successes of previous efforts including Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund by giving state fish and wildlife agencies additional resources they need to proactively manage at-risk wildlife species. I am proud to introduce this legislation with my Republican colleague from Alaska, Mr. Young. We both love the outdoors and know we must work hard to protect our natural resources. To some we may seem the odd couple but together we believe we can get something done that will help bring conservation into the 21st Century and complement the other successful programs that are currently in place.”

“America’s hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and boaters have been the primary funders of state-based conservation efforts to this day,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “This recommendation simply uses funding for conservation from other sectors that use our natural resources.”

“We have a once in a generation opportunity to save thousands of at-risk wildlife species by investing in proactive, collaborative conservation. By modernizing how we fund conservation of the full diversity of wildlife, we will bolster our natural resources, strengthen our outdoor recreation economy, reduce regulatory uncertainty, improve public health, and bolster community resilience,” said Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation. “We thank Congressman Young and Congresswoman Dingell for their exceptional leadership on the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.”

Media Contacts:

Sara Leonard, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation –

Lacey McCormick, National Wildlife Federation –

Patricia Allen, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies –


Additional Information:




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Great Lakes Diversion Approved -Now We Bird Dog It

Yesterday in Chicago, the first Great Lakes diversion application under the Great Lakes Compact (Compact) was approved, with conditions.  This is a sound decision.

Say what?

Didn’t almost everyone oppose this? Including National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and virtually every environmental and conservation group across the Great Lakes?

Yes, NWF opposed this diversion…as submitted.  Check out our reason why we opposed this proposal as submitted here.

“As submitted” is an important nuance to highlight, because after it was submitted, the proposal was changed by the Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers.  These changes (or conditions added) brought the proposal closer in line with the Compact standards.

Others, including the Joyce Foundation, share this view.  Take a look here.

Compact Council vote 6 2016

Great Lakes states vote on final Great Lakes diversion proposal from the city of Waukesha

Here is my take on this historic moment:

First, its important to remember that the Great Lakes Compact was developed to prohibit diversions of Great Lakes water and promote the wise use of our water resources inside the Basin.  NWF and countless groups across the Basin helped negotiate and advocate for the adoption of this agreement.  The Compact manages Great Lakes water in a protective, yet fair and sustainable way.  Upon adoption in 2008, NWF and almost every conservation group in the Great Lakes Basin heralded this as a success.

While creating a ban on diversions, the Compact also allows very limited exceptions to this ban.  These exceptions are limited and narrow for communities and counties that straddle the Great Lakes Basin.  If a community meets this definition, then they can apply.  Furthermore, a community must meet a set of criteria called the ‘exception standard’ in order to be approved by all eight Great Lakes governors.  The exception standard requires a community to: demonstrate a need for water; conduct a reasonable water supply alternative analysis, and return the water (less consumptive use) among others.

Here is why I feel the Waukesha diversion approved with conditions is a sound decision for the Great Lakes.

First, the Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers agreed with us that as submitted, the Waukesha diversion application failed to meet the standards in the Compact. Because they agreed that it failed to meet the standards, they added conditions that narrowed it down and brought the proposal closer in line with the Compact standards.

Here are some of the important conditions included:

  • Removed all towns and areas from the application that did not need water.
  • Reduced the volume of water requested down from 16 mgpd (max capacity) to 8.2 mgpd.
  • Strengthened the enforcement capability of any governor, or the Compact Council, to take actions necessary to compel compliance if Waukesha or WI DNR fail to carry out the conditions placed on the proposal. This includes the ability of any governor to request an audit and inspection of how this diversion is being managed and enforced.

Moreover, Waukesha will return close to 100% of the water diverted.  This is a key requirement of the Compact in order to get approved.

Its fair to say that the Great Lakes conservation community can take some credit and was instrumental in getting these conditions placed on the diversion.  Up until the last moment, groups involved were trying to influence the final outcome. As a result, and I do not mean to beat my chest here, but I certainly believe that the conservation community effectively drove the debate by raising the concerns with the proposal in a campaign blitz that ended up driving this process towards a better outcome.  Lets acknowledge that and feel good about our ability to influence and change the final outcome.

I feel the Great Lakes governors and premiers heard our and the public’s concerns and tried to address them.  It’s worth noting that some states and provinces were the clear intellectual thought leaders during this process.  While all states and provinces contributed to the final outcome, I want to extend sincere appreciation to Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Ontario.  Their thoughtful and serious review show that the Compact worked.

What precedent is being set here?  Well, the way I see this is that this decision will set a very difficult path for the next diversion applicant.

Why?  Consider that Waukesha spent close to $7 million alone in technical consulting fees.  On top of that, they will spend approximately over $200 million to upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate the diversion. That’s right…$200 million.  We are talking wastewater treatment upgrades, water storage upgrades, infrastructure to hook up their supply, and infrastructure to return the treated wastewater back to the Great Lakes.  Oh, by the way, given the process the Compact created, Waukesha had to go through the ringer of a years long difficult state review process…and a regional review process that created a sense of uncertainly as other governors and premiers changed this proposal – leaving Waukesha to sit there and watch this unfold.  Talk about a tense and stressful process!  I don’t know about you, but this should create a barrier for any future community looking at a diversion.  Who would want to go through this?  Given this huge price tag, is it economically feasible to even begin to think about applying for a diversion? A community must have a very serious and desperate situation in order to choose to go through what Waukesha just went through.  Alas – the Compact created this difficult path to get a diversion approved.

While not perfect (what is?) approving this diversion with conditions is a sound decision that upholds the Compact’s intent and spirit.  Many groups and individuals may not be happy with this outcome, but the pragmatic side of me feels strong and confident that this decision will set a very difficult path for the next diversion applicant.

What now?  Well, we need to review the public participation process for the next diversion application (lets hope there isn’t one).  Remember that this was the first application for a diversion under the Compact.  The process wasn’t perfect and it was bumpy at times.  Given this, there is agreement from some states and provinces that changes are in order to refine and improve this process in the future.  We intend to work with the states and provinces to that end.

Lastly, questions remain over the ability of Waukesha and WIDNR to manage and enforce these conditions.  Given this, we will be watching.  And, we expect the governors to be watching.  We are going to bird dog this thing and we reserve the right to take actions necessary to ensure that Waukesha and WIDNR do what they are required to do.

Statement from NWF and the Alliance for the Great Lakes...

Alliance for the Great Lakes – National Wildlife Federation
June 21, 2016
Jennifer Caddick, Alliance for the Great Lakes, (315) 767-2802
Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation, (734) 255-5413
States Approve Request to Divert Great Lakes Water
(Chicago) This afternoon the eight Great Lakes states voted to approve Waukesha, Wisconsin’s diversion request. We believe that the conditions adopted by the Compact Council improved Waukesha’s proposal’s compliance with the Great Lakes Compact. We applaud the Great Lakes Governors for agreeing with us that the Waukesha diversion application as submitted failed to meet the standards of the Great Lakes Compact.
While we need to review the details of the final decision, we are encouraged by the additional conditions placed on Waukesha’s diversion application that improved the request. It is also important to note that the water diverted from Lake Michigan to Waukesha will be returned to the Great Lakes basin, resulting in no net loss of water to the lakes as required by the Compact.
We appreciate the seriousness with which members of the Great Lakes Regional Body and Compact Council undertook their responsibility to review Waukesha’s diversion application. While we have always believed that Waukesha has a reasonable water supply alternative, we understand that the Regional Body and Compact Council saw that issue differently.
Today’s vote is not the end of the story. Great Lakes advocates will need to be vigilant in making sure that the city of Waukesha and the State of Wisconsin honor the terms of the agreement. We will be strong watchdogs to ensure that the Great Lakes are protected. We expect that the Compact Council and its members will act promptly if Waukesha and Wisconsin do not meet every requirement imposed by the Council. And, if necessary, we will take action to compel compliance with the Compact Council’s requirements.
Moving forward, we strongly encourage the Regional Body and Compact Council to amend their processes to include improved opportunities for the public to participate in a meaningful and timely way throughout the regional review process no matter where they live.




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