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Tuesday
Sep252012

Feds Set to Steal Fisheries Funding

As if we needed another reminder that our federal government is broken, the Office of Management and Budget came up with this:

Cut $34 million from the Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) and Boating Trust Fund to help reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Now, I’m one who believes that virtually every program, including those related to conservation and natural resources, should be on the table to help us get the massive federal debt under control.

But the problem with this recommendation is that the SFR fund is not financed by taxpayers, as are all those other federal expenditures. Anglers pay for this one themselves with excise taxes paid on fishing tackle and motorboat fuel.

To deny any of that money to the states for fisheries management, as it was intended, is theft.

“The angling and boating community was shocked to learn that for the first time in its 62-year history, the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund – the backbone of fisheries conservation in the United States - is recommended for a cut under sequestration totaling $34 million,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

 Established in 1950 with the support of industry, anglers, and state conservation agencies, SFR “is an outstanding example of what good government should be and is the backbone of the user-pay model of funding conservation in this nation. It is essential that it remain untouched,” Robertson added.

The Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 placed a federal excise tax on all recreational fishing equipment, which manufacturers pay and is then incorporated into the cost of the equipment that anglers purchase. In 1984 the Act was amended to include that part of the federal gasoline fuel tax attributable to motor boat use. The total annual value of the Trust Fund is approximately $650 million. The monies from the fund are apportioned to state conservation agencies for sport fish restoration, boating safety, angler and boater access and other fishing and boating programs.

“When anglers and boaters pay the equipment tax or the fuel tax they are doing so with the understanding that this money is going to a trust fund dedicated - by law - to the resources they enjoy,” said Robertson.

“Withholding funds from this essential program at a time when state fishery programs are already struggling to ensure the best quality service to anglers and resource management will only cause fishery resources to suffer even more and cause job losses associated with the loss of recreation fishing boating programs.

“The sportfishing and boating industries, as well as anglers and boaters themselves, fail to understand how cutting a user-pay trust fund helps the economy.”

Recreational fishing adds $125 billion each year to the nation’s economy and supports more than one million jobs. Since its inception, SFR has pumped $7 billion into habitat restoration, access and boating safety programs.

SFR’s hunting counterpart, the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1936, is slated for a $31 million freeze. That program is funded by hunters and men and women who engage in the shooting sports and archery, who pay a similar tax to support wildlife restoration.

“This level of cuts to conservation programs that pay their own way is unprecedented and all anglers, hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts must speak up to prevent these cuts,” Robertson concluded.

Along with these two cornerstone conservation acts, many other critical conservation funds are also listed for significant cuts. Congress, with the cooperation of the Administration, must address the sequestration schedule and this will not occur until after the elections and possibly not until early 2013 and with a new Congress.

Visit Keep America Fishing regularly to keep current about when Congress may act on the SFR recommendation and other fisheries programs and when you should speak up.

And keep this in mind: Many in Washington consider fisheries and conservation “easy marks” for budget cuts. Some don’t recognize their importance. Others believe that anglers simply are not a constituency to be feared or even respected, for that matter.

The only way that the latter will change is for us to show them otherwise.

Monday
Sep242012

Clean Water Future Encourages Investment to Protect, Enhance Fisheries

Mill Brook culvert maintenance

One of the best ways to keep our waters clean and healthy is to encourage people to invest --- either with time or money --- in their protection and enhancement.

Clean Water Future provides a good example of this with a pilot project for watershed protection on the Upper Connecticut River Valley between Vermont and New Hampshire. It connects people who are not on the land with people who are, and provides an alternative funding mechanism directed at individuals rather than foundations and government agencies.

“Similar to KickStarter, the website asks the public to invest in watershed protection projects,” spokesperson Linda Setchell tells Activist Angler.

“A couple of the projects we have listed currently improve fish habitat: 

“Mill Brook Fish Ladder Restoration Project is rebuilding a fish ladder that was destroyed during last year's Hurricane Irene, which ravaged Vermont's rivers. When in operation the ladder resulted in a 500 percent increase in wild trout spawning rates upstream of the ladder.

“Wood Is Good is a small project that will be dropping trees into a prime trout stream habitat in the backwoods of Vermont to help improve spawning grounds.”

Good ideas here, not just for those who live near the Upper Connecticut, but for activists nationwide.

 

Monday
Sep242012

Discarded Plastic Baits Still a Problem --- Let's Solve It

Carl Wengenroth of The Anglers Lodge on Lake Amistad recently picked up these baits along the shore at the world-class bass fishery on the Rio Grande River.

"This is just from a 25-yard stretch," says Wengenroth, who was working a weigh-in at nearby Black Brush ramp.

"Took only about 5 minutes to get these."

This photo serves as a painful reminder that we still have much work to do in keeping discarded plastic baits out of our waters. We must lead by example, properly disposing of used baits. We must encourage others to do the same. And we must pick up after those oblivious to the damage they do with their sloblike behavior.

By the way, plastic baits typically lose their color and swell after extended time in the water. The latter can be especially harmful for fish that swallow them.

 

 

Monday
Sep242012

Near Water Is a Healthy Place to Be

Activist Angler's home on a lake, following an ice storm. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Living near water may be good for your health, according to university researchers. I could have told them that.

Theories for the reason include less stress, more outdoor activity, a calmer lifestyle, and the soothing effects of sunsets and walks on a beach, according to the Great Lakes Echo.

I’d also add that living near water puts you right in the middle of all the wonder that is nature, which makes you more appreciative of and respectful for life in general. Here at my little lake, I share my property with ducks, deer, foxes, turkeys, rabbits, skunks, bats, snakes, lizards, frogs, squirrels (too many!), raccoons (who poop on my deck), and even a bear.

And let’s not forget that water contains fish, which facilitates fishing:

“The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.”

By the way, wealth is not a factor. People of limited means show the biggest gains in life spans when they live near water.

That emphasizes that keeping our public waters clean and accessible is vital.

Learn more from the University of Exeter here.

Friday
Sep212012

Catch Shares Contributes to New England Fisheries Disaster

 

Here’s more condemnation of Catch Shares. This is from Food & Water Watch:

 “Food & Water Watch applauds the U.S. Commerce Department for declaring a national disaster for New England’s fisheries. The move will allow the federal government to offer millions of dollars in relief for fishermen and their communities. While this assistance is much needed, it is not the permanent solution to the problem. 

“No one could have predicted the collapse of the cod population in New England.

“What was predicted was the collapse of the region’s small-boat, independent fishing industry due to the catch shares management system. Catch shares, which has been promoted heavily nation-wide by the National Marine Fisheries Service, have forced smaller-scale fishermen out of business, paving the way for industrial fishing methods that can destroy sensitive ocean habitats.

Without significant funds to compensate for these simultaneous disasters, catch shares combined with the cod collapse will be the end of New England’s traditional fisheries. 

“Catch shares dole out allocations of fish, pitting independent fishermen against large-scale fishing operations to compete for allotments or shares, often giving preference to big, commercial operations. These quota are typically given away for free to fishermen and fishing companies who can lease or sell them. But shares tend to consolidate in a small and elite group of wealthy companies. 

“Catch shares also encourage the use of larger boats, damaging gear, and wasteful fishing practices that hurt fish populations and their habitats. More than declaring New England fisheries a national disaster, the dismantling of NMFS’s catch shares program could help the region’s most important industry rebound. If this program continues, the devastating result would be the privatization of a natural resource, which would hurt consumers, fishermen and our oceans.”