October 12, 2018
Land and Water Fund Could
Re-emerge after Elections
By Ben Long/Outdoor Life
Photo by Paolo Rosa/flickr
At midnight on Sept. 30, the Land & Water Conservation Fund officially expired.  Sportsmen and conservation groups   fought hard to prevent that, but ran out of daylight. Stakes are high, as LWCF is arguably America’s most important and successful tool for conserving access and habitat for hunting, fishing and other recreation across the United States. It costs taxpayers nothing, as it taps money paid from royalties of off-shore oil and gas drilling.

“The fight is not over,” said Amy Lindholm, of the Land and Water Conservation Coalition. “We’ve seen this scenario before.”

In short, Congress must return to session after the November election to clean up its financial house and pass spending bills to keep the government working. Lindholm and others believe that will be the opportunity to resurrect LWCF.

Read the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership’s recommendations for the Land and Water Conservation Fund .
Farm Bill Expiration Brings Uncertainty for Conservation
By Kristyn Brady/TRCP
Photo by YoTuT/flickr
The 2014 Farm Bill has expired, effectively hitting the pause button on a number of vital conservation programs. If Congress can’t get a new five-year bill reauthorized by the end of this Congress, it could have profound impacts on future funding for conservation programs and begin to influence whether farmers and ranchers across the nation even want to take advantage of conservation incentives.

“Farmers, ranchers, and forest owners across the country depend on Farm Bill conservation programs for the tools they need to protect and improve soil, water, and wildlife habitat on working lands, and this failure to pass an on-time Farm Bill means that farmers and ranchers will no longer be able to enroll in the full suite of conservation programs over the coming weeks,” says Aviva Glaser, director of agriculture policy at the  National Wildlife Federation . “ We call on Congress to come together quickly to pass a strong, bipartisan, and conservation-friendly Farm Bill.”

Until lawmakers resolve debate and vote to pass a new bill, well-intentioned landowners—whose demand for conservation programs already outstrips the funding available—can’t enroll in important programs and services that benefit wildlife, water quality, and outdoor recreation

Read the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership’s proposal for the Farm Bill .
You Won’t Believe How Many Birds
Will Migrate This Year
By Carley Eschliman/allaboutbirds.org
Photo by Jim Gain/flickr
Fall migration will bring 4 billion birds into the skies over the United States. That’s not a guess—it’s hard data, gleaned from the first-ever national bird count using weather radar.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology scientists picked through data from 143 weather radar stations from 2013 to 2017 to provide the first large-scale counts of migratory bird activity across the United States. Their research,  published today in the journal  Nature Ecology & Evolution , provides a peek into how many migratory birds use American airspace.

An average of 4 billion birds passed from Canada across the northern border of the U.S. in autumn, with 2.6 billion birds returning across the Canada–U.S. border in spring. Activity across the southern border was on an even grander scale: an average of 4.7 billion birds left the U.S. for Mexico and other points south each autumn, with 3.5 billion birds heading north across the U.S. southern border each spring.

Radar ornithology is an emerging field that extracts avian activity from weather-radar data to track birds’ nocturnal movements.

Eyes in the Sky Crack Down on Illegal Fisheries
By W. Wayt Gibbs/Anthropocene
Photo by NOAA Fisheries/flickr
When the nonprofit groups  Oceana  and  SkyTruth  
unveiled  Global Fishing Watch  (GFW) in 2014, their idea was to turn the power of “crowdspying”—organized oversight of the environment by the public at large—against rogue fishing fleets.

The initial results were encouraging. GFW revealed just how vast—and surprisingly unprofitable—fishing is on the high seas. The team even persuaded the Indonesian government to open up its detailed database of commercial fishing activity to public view. But because the system relied on vessels actively transmitting their positions through a collision-avoidance system known as AIS (for Automated Identification System), it was unable to shine much light on the “dark fleet” of commercial ships that run radio-silent yet haul in illicit seafood on an industrial scale.

No longer. In June, Global Fishing Watch unveiled two new features to its interactive map of ship tracks. One allows anyone who visits the site to observe vessels that light up the sea as they fish at night, whether they are broadcasting AIS signals or not. The other highlights likely transshipments, where two boats rendezvous on the high seas to transfer crew, supplies, fuel, or seafood.

Why Are Yellowstone’s Swans Disappearing?
By Christine Peterson/nature.org
Photo by Michael Janke/flickr
In the early 1900s, when people were driving any birds with attractive plumage to extinction, a small group of trumpeter swans persisted, tucked away in a hidden corner of the U.S.

They had been killed off nearly everywhere else. Hunters wanted their meat. Women’s hat and clothing manufacturers wanted their striking white feathers.
But in Yellowstone National Park, the nearby Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding region, about 70 birds remained. Now in a twist of ecological fate, what was once one of the last reservoirs of trumpeter swans in the lower 48 may blink out.

“All those hours exploring the great outdoors made me more resilient
and confident.” 

-   David Suzuki
To read past McGraw Reports click here.