March 23, 2018
Hopes for Fixing the Mississippi Face Myriad Challenges
By Todd C. Frankel/The Washington Post
Photo by KSI Photography/flickr
The Mississippi River runs the spine of America, touching 10 states and draining waters from 21 more, a vast waterway with a rich mythology, a sometimes powerful beauty and an always alarming propensity to flood.

Nearly 30 locks and dams hold back water in the river’s upper reaches. Every river bend to the south is lined by concrete to slow the water’s corrosive force. Levees corset thousands of miles of riverbanks and 170 bridges run above. All of this infrastructure is aimed at permitting barge traffic and protecting farms and cities. Most of it is decrepit.

Now, with President Trump’s push for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, there are hopes of billions to fix up the Mississippi. But there are clashes over which projects to pursue, and no agreement on how to pay for any of it.

A move to tame one portion of the river can create chaos for people somewhere else along its 2,350-mile path, and in that precarious balance is the key to understanding the competing interests and enduring problems that vex the entire country.

“To understand America at this time,” says R.D. James, a Missouri farmer and new Army assistant secretary overseeing its Corps of Engineers, “you have to understand the river.”
Listen: McGraw’s Heartland Waters Initiative and the Farm Bill
As Congress begins to consider the next Farm Bill, conservationists across the nation are working to ensure that it includes funding for critical programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program. McGraw’s Center for Conservation Leadership has created an innovative proposal that would emphasize maximum economic efficiency while delivering significant improvements in water quality. Known as the Heartland Waters Initiative , the proposal has been widely praised by government officials and private conservation leaders.

McGraw consultant Alex Echols recently participated in a webinar to discuss the initiative as well as other developments in the crafting of the Farm Bill.  
Bristol Bay Mine on the Ropes, But Fight Isn’t Over Yet
By Nelli Williams/TRCP
Photo by KSI Photography/flickr
Even by Alaskan standards—and we’re lucky to have our pick of remote streams with big and plentiful fish—Bristol Bay is a sporting paradise. It is recognized as one of the finest fishing destinations on Earth, tucked away in an isolated corner of southwest Alaska. The region also produces about half the world’s sockeye salmon, with a record 60 million fish returning last summer to our famed rivers.

There’s no question that Bristol Bay is unique, and yet we continue to have to speak up to make sure it stays that way. Here’s why.

The now-infamous proposed Pebble Mine would carve out an open pit at the headwaters of the Bay’s two largest rivers, threatening clean water and fish habitat. Somewhere between 1.2 billion and 11 billion tons of mine waste could then remain in the area, forever.

That’s why anglers, recreation businesses, tribes, chefs, commercial fishermen, conservation organizations, and hundreds of thousands of Americans came together to successfully take the proposed mine from a done deal to a less-than-popular project—it has lost three major partners, but the mine’s remaining proponent, Northern Dynasty Minerals, is still looking for new investors.
Why Anglers Should Strive to Become Citizen Scientists
By Jennifer Byerly/TRCP
Photo by Alan Kotok/flickr
Amber Von Harten is working to collect more reliable catch data from anglers to influence how South Atlantic fisheries are managed in the future. Here’s how her personal connection to fishing keeps her going in a challenging field and why she is determined to hear about what you’re catching.

Q: How did you begin working in fisheries management?

A: I grew up catching croaker in the Chesapeake Bay area and made up my mind to work in marine science in fifth grade. When you tell people you’ve dreamt of studying ocean sustainability from a young age, most picture you saving sea turtles or something. Well, my first gig was working closely with commercial fishermen within the shrimping industry, and that’s where my love of applied research began .
Female Birds Do Sing. But Are We Listening?
By Ben Guarino/The Washington Post
Photo by Eric Kilby/flickr
Only male birds sing. For years that was the assumption among amateur birdwatchers and ornithologists alike. After all, male birds are “the obvious ones,” says  Lauryn Benedict , a biologist at the University of Northern Colorado. “They're out there showing off, strutting their stuff.”

But Benedict and fellow birdsong expert  Karan Odom , a biologist at Cornell University, want you to look closer if you hear a chirp or warble. Female birds are not, on the whole, silent. In a call-to-ears published in the journal  the Auk , the two scientists say that “birders and researchers need to be aware that female birds regularly sing, and they need to take the time to evaluate the sex of singing birds.”

The tipping point for Odom came in 2014, when she concluded that birdsong is an ancestral trait shared by both sexes. Female birds sang in 71 percent of 323 species surveyed, she and her colleagues reported then in a  Nature Communications  paper. They traced this behavior through the bird family tree, winding back the generations to a common singing ancestor. At that point in history, they wrote, both male and female birds sang.
“What people don’t understand is that this is something that we only have in America. There is no other country in the world where the ordinary citizen can go out and enjoy hunting and fishing. There’s no other nation in the world where that happens. And it’s very much a part of our heritage” 

- Gen. Norman Schwarzkop f
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