Short Strikes No. 2

This week, Short Strikes takes a visit to Washington and stops by free-flowing rivers to find some dam bait. And, we ponder the eternal Winter Olympics question—why is America so good at snowboarding and so terrible at biathlon?

Dam Right 

86 dams were removed from rivers last year, making 2017 a banner year for river restoration, according to AmericanRivers.org. Pennsylvania (16), California (10) and Massachusetts (9) lead the way in a laundry list of states that removed outdated dams last year. A complete list of dams that were torn down is available here.

“The record number of dams removed in 2017 shows that more communities see clean, free-flowing rivers as vital to their health, economy and future,” said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers. “The river conservation movement in our country is stronger than ever, and we applaud all of the people who contributed to this major milestone. Our hard work is paying off.”

D—that’s the grade the American Society of Civil Engineers gives to the nation’s dams on its infrastructure report card. This should be no surprise, as many U.S. dams were built in the early hours of the 20th century and have begun to show their age. Of 3,700 new dams proposed worldwide, zero are located in the United States. In fact, while the rest of the world is turning to hydropower for economic stimulus, the U.S. is leading the way in dam removal.

Since 1976, more than 1,000 dams have been taken down in American waters. If you care about the environment, that could be seen as a good thing. Ecologists say dam proposals in the Amazon River Basin will be unmitigated environmental disasters, destroying fragile and scientifically valuable habitat in one of the world’s most biologically diverse places. South America isn’t alone here, either, as massive dam projects along Asia’s Mekong River threaten to destroy fisheries on that continent as well.

The strike: I’ll hand it back over to Irvin: “While we celebrate this positive momentum, we must remain vigilant. Our nation is in danger of slipping backward when it comes to clean water and river health. Budget cuts and environmental rollbacks from the Trump administration and Congress threaten to reverse the laudable progress communities across the country are making at the local level.”

Federal Wildlife and Land Agencies Facing the Axe

The Theodoore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) says the White House is continuing its inexplicable war on the environment this week, as President Trump proposed budget and infrastructure cuts that would gut federal agencies charged with protecting and maintaining nature.

“As it is, federal funding for conservation represents barely one percent of the budget, having been slashed in half over the past 30 years, and it would be impossible to balance the budget on the back of conservation,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “Unfortunately, this proposal seems to indicate that cash-strapped conservation agencies deserve these cuts, while public land facilities, forests, waterways, wetlands and millions of acres of sagebrush continue to fall by the wayside. The $887-billion outdoor recreation economy relies on healthy fish and wildlife populations, quality habitat and the upkeep of public land infrastructure, and we will continue working with Congress and the administration to ensure these basic tenets of conservation are upheld.”

Here’s a breakdown of the cuts that would affect sportsmen most rapidly:

U.S. Forest Service— 9 percent cut. Sixty-seven percent of the forest service budget would be used to fight wildfires. The Forest Legacy program and Legacy Roads and Trails Program would both be shut down. The former supports state efforts to conserve environmentally sensitive lands; the later supports trail repair and maintenance and the removal of barriers to fish passage. Ninety-eight percent of land acquisition funds at the forest service would disappear.

Bureau of Land Management— 17.5 percent cut. BLM would have less than a $1 billion operating budget to manage 240 million acres of public land. Thirty-two percent of its budget for funding management of riparian areas, soil and water would also disappear.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — 18 percent cut. The agency charged with protecting endangered species, managing migratory birds, and helping state agencies fund conservation projects would lose nearly one-fifth of its operating budget. The National Wildlife Refuge System, home to many a lake and river, would lose all of its budget for conservation planning activities. Meanwhile, North American Wetlands Conservation Act funds would be slashed by 11-percent. Those dollars go towards wetland restoration, as angling havens like Louisiana loose a football field of wetlands every hour

Environmental Protection Agency — 34 percent cut. The proposed cut would reduce EPA budget by $3 billion, hacking away at water restoration programs in places like the Great Lakes. According to the Detroit News, one Great Lakes clean up project would see its budget sliced by ninety percent, from $300 million to $30 million.

The strike: The Trump administration is seeking $200 billion more for its proposed infrastructure plan. The TRCP says one line in the proposal suggests public lands could be sold to fund it. Have fun bass fishing at beautiful Lake Powell sponsored by Shell Oil or trout fishing in the Exxon-Mobil Sierra National Forest. Trump has likened his new infrastructure proposal to FDR’s “New Deal” — a program that coincidentally created thousands of crumbling dams and destroyed countless riverine ecosystems in the process.

Per President Trump: “Let me ask you, if your own house was falling down and you had to hire someone to fix it before it completely collapsed, who would you hire? A guy who tells you what he’s planning to do, or a guy who has proven what he can do countless times before?”

In May, 2017 the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City sold for four cents on the dollar.

Apple News is Better Than HomePod

Apple’s new HomePod is making headlines for marvelous sound, an even more inept version of Siri and a $349 price tag. If you’re not up on the news, think Amazon Alexa meets your iPhone. HomePod joins Alexa and Google Home as creepy CIA listening devices/music players/what-are-these-for-gimmicks that listen to what you’re saying and do things like order more laundry detergent. Luckily, you don’t have to lose your privacy to be trendy, because you can now read FTR on Apple News. That’s the news app on your iPhone that doesn’t play music or listen in on your conversations or cost $349. It’s free.

Just search for Fishing Tackle Retailer and give us a follow. Why Apple News? In short, because Facebook is not to be trusted, and because you can now read FTR without having to hear all of the social commentary that goes along with your Facebook News Feed. Nifty, huh?

The closer

It’s simple, really. America is awesome at snowboarding because snowboarding is cool. America is terrible at biathlon because there’s no way to look cool while cross-country skiing in spandex and shooting a pellet rifle. Now, if they’d make that BB gun a .50 cal….