Many in the outdoor media are critical of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for cutting or attempting to cut funds for various federal conservation programs.
I’m not one of them.
Yes, I would like that funding to continue. Yes, I believe that we could continue to finance those programs despite the budget deficit --- if we could eliminate the billions in fraud and waste perpetrated by corrupt politicians who are so adept at spending other people’s money. But that is as likely to happen as teaching pigs to fly so that we can save shipping costs for ham and bacon.
Republicans elected to the House in 2010 --- many of them supported by Tea Party affiliates --- went to Washington, D.C., with the intent of shrinking government, reducing taxes, and cutting back on spending.
I support that agenda and, sadly, realize that enacting it will mean reduced budgets for all if we are to avoid the collapse of our economy because of insurmountable debt.
On the other hand, four more years of Obama will push us to the precipice of economic collapse, with Greece providing us with a preview of what could happen here.
Meanwhile, many of those same folks in the outdoor media have been ignoring the threat that four more years of this president also will pose for recreational fishing.
Let’s start with funding. States finance their fisheries programs primarily with license fees and money collected as excise taxes on tackle, equipment, and motorboat fuel through the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. If the first four years are any indication --- and I believe that they are --- a second term would be catastrophic for our economy and, by extension, the fishing industry. That could mean less money for fisheries management, as anglers cut back on discretionary spending to make ends meet.
The National Ocean Policy is the 500-pound gorilla in the room. By-passing Congress with an Executive Order, Obama has created a massive bureaucracy that will tell us where we can and cannot fish through a strategy called “marine spatial planning.” In reality, it is death by a thousand cuts for angling, as one fishery after another will be shut down by nameless bureaucrats.
Catch Shares is a second strategy pushed by this administration to limit access. Supposedly, it is being done for conservation. In reality, it is a scheme to privatize a public resource, as “shares” of an ocean fishery are allotted to individuals and/or companies. Right now, mostly it is directed at species harvested commercially. But if incorporated into “mixed” (commercial and recreation) fisheries, it will limit participation, as the sport sector will be limited to the same fixed amount each year.
The National Ocean Policy and Catch Shares are brought to us by preservationists from environmental groups that Obama has brought into his administration. Special interests aren’t just influencing public policy; they are setting it.
If this President gets a second term, look for de-emphasizing of sport fisheries programs within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies, attempts to reduce access for anglers and hunters by establishment of land and marine preserves, and renewed boldness by anti-fishing groups that want to ban lead fishing tackle.
Also, look for this administration to continue “searching” for a solution that will keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, as it sides with Illinois in opposing the obvious solution --- closing the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. Eliminating that entry/exit not only would help keep carp out, but it would prevent other invasives from moving between the two systems.
I don’t know if Romney/Ryan would be any better about policy regarding this last issue. But I suspect that they would, given that Ryan, now a representative from Wisconsin, is both an angler and a hunter and would have a better appreciation of the value of the Great Lakes sport fishery. He also is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
What I do know is that this President is not a friend of angling. He might not be personally against it, but many in his administration either have no regard for it or they do oppose it. That, combined with four more years of economic hardship for this country, would be crushing for recreational fishing.
Please keep that in mind when you go to the polls in November. And if you are an angler who usually does not vote, I hope that this will motivate you to do so.