OK, so not much, really. Unless you love to hunt and fish and understand how Farm Bill conservation programs serve to benefit fish and game habitat on private land all across America.
That’s right. Private land. Farm Bill money goes to enhance habitat on land we may never get to fish or hunt. But if you think fish and game stay in one place and don’t migrate between public and private lands, you’re mistaken. And you’re missing the big picture.
It’s simple, really. Intact habitat equals quality opportunity. Ask anybody who’s bothered to knock on doors in South Dakota during pheasant season. The better the cover, the better the hunting.
Something more germane to our beloved trout? No problem.
Consider a restoration project on private land situated between a Gold Medal river and U.S. Forest Service land. Between the river and the public lands, picture a spawning stream with great potential–a migratory highway between the river and the headwaters of the creek, where big, native cutthroats run each spring to spawn.
Now, consider the health of the creek. It’s diverted in a number of places for hayfield irrigation. In one stretch, it’s been completely channelized out of its natural course. Ditches aren’t screened. Water is wasted. Cows and horses graze right up to the bank in some places. In some years, all the water is taken out of the creek before it reaches the river, and spawning trout are trapped in standing water, or they don’t bother to migrate at all.
What would happen if a conservation organization like TU–using some money from the Farm Bill–went in and, with a landowner’s support and investment, modernized the irrigation practices along the creek? Let’s say another landowner agreed to fence off their cattle or funnel them to one hard-bottom spot along the creek. Yet another ranch owner agreed to help put the creek to be put back into its original channel, and helped replant willows along the stream to provide shade and keep temperatures habitable for migrating trout. And, finally, another landowner agrees to replace a perched culvert that, during low-water years, blocks fish passage altogether.
The result? Less water is used for essentially the same agricultural output. Water temperatures are lower. Cover is better. Fish aren’t getting sucked into ditches and ending up as fertilizer. More water is left in the creek. Fish can get from the river to their spawning waters and back. Every year.
And guess what? So can anglers.
Big fish moving around in small water on public land. More fish in the river thanks to better spawning success.
Still think the Farm Bill lacks sex appeal?
TU and our conservation partners who use Farm Bill money to improve habitat and opportunity all over America need your help. The U.S. Senate’s Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill this week. We need the rest of Congress to take up the bill and get it passed.
Contact your state’s legislators and ask them to support the reauthorization of the Farm Bill. Much of TU’s good work to improve your fishing depends on it.