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Entries in Congress (35)

Thursday
Feb262015

Congress Stops Lead Ban Attempts for 2015

Congress stood solidly on the side of anglers and hunters late last year, as it specified in an appropriations bill that unwarranted regulation of fishing tackle and ammunition with lead components via the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) would be banned during the 2015 fiscal year.

“We applaud Congressional leadership for protecting the nation’s 60 million anglers from unjustified restrictions on fishing equipment that anglers have safely used for decades,” said Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association.

Section 425 of the $1.1 trillion bill states, “None of the funds made available by this or any other act may be used to regulate the lead content of ammunition, ammunition components, or fishing tackle . . .”

But the fix is only temporary. Should Congress pass the Sportsmen’s Package Bill in 2015, which was derailed by last year’s Senate, the protection could become permanent.

During the past few years, environmental and other groups persistently have lobbied the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban use of lead by anglers, hunters, and shooters.

“On multiple occasions, the Environmental Protection Agency has been petitioned by anti-fishing organizations to federally ban fishing tackle containing lead based on its impact on wildlife, a position that is not based on sound science,” Nussman added.

Monday
Feb092015

Senate Tries Again to Enact Sportsman's Act

Legislation beneficial to anglers has been introduced in Congress by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators

"The number one issue for sportsmen and women across the country is access. This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America's thriving outdoor recreation economy,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

"The bipartisan Sportsman's Act is not only an access bill, but also a way to promote economic growth in our country. Sportsmen and women across the country spend billions of dollars each year on outdoor activities,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.  

"This commonsense, bipartisan legislation supports conservation efforts while also improving access to recreational hunting and fishing on federal lands."

The Sportman’s Act of 2015 includes 14 provisions, several similar to those within the  Sportsmen's Act of 2014 from the 113th Congress. Importantly, the bill makes the existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, and adds lead tackle to the exempted products, leaving regulatory authority to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies.

Also, the bill requires federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting; enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands; and directs 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enhancing public recreational access for hunting, angling, and recreational shooting, otherwise known as Making Public Lands Public (MPLP).

“This bipartisan package contains many important provisions that are largely non-controversial and that will advance fisheries conservation and recreational fishing access for the benefit of the nation’s 60 million anglers,” said American Sportfishing President and CEO Mike Nussman. “Recreational fishing supports 828,000 jobs and contributes $115 billion to the economy annually. This monumental legislative package will greatly enhance recreational fishing’s social, economic and conservation benefits to the nation.”

Previous versions of the Sportsmen’s Act failed to pass the U.S. Senate in 2012 and 2014, primarily due to partisan disputes unrelated to the merits of the bill. With strong commitments from leadership on both sides of the aisle, ASA expressed optimism about the bill being enacted in the 114th Congress.

“Our community remains dedicated to the passage of the Sportsmen’s Act, and we are hopeful that the third time will be the charm,” said Nussman. “We want to give special thanks to Senators Murkowski and Heinrich and their staffs for swift bipartisan progress, and we look forward to working with them and the other original co-sponsors as this legislation goes through the committee process and ultimately to the floor of the U.S. Senate.”

Nussman added, “We believe the Sportsmen’s Act could be greatly strengthened by the addition of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act. This bipartisan bill has strong support from the sportfishing community and it would bring tremendous value to the overall package by adding a much needed fisheries habitat component. ASA will actively support inclusion of this measure into the package during the coming legislative process.”

More information on Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, as well as an action alert to contact Senators in support of the bill, can be found at Keep America Fishing

Wednesday
May282014

How About Hippos?

If you think that we’ve made a mess of our lands and waters through intentional and unintentional import of exotic plants and animals, you are correct. For example, we now spend billions of dollars annually to control and mitigate the damage done by just four recently introduced species: bighead carp, silver carp, quagga mussel, and zebra mussel.

And in attempts to minimize problems, the government often has made them worse. During the 1940s, the state of Louisiana touted the South American nutria as a way to control water hyacinth, a fast-growing exotic that was crowding out native vegetation in wetlands. Today, the nutria is eating away those same wetlands, contributing to saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion.

In the early 1960s, the states of Alabama and Arkansas allowed import of grass carp to control aquatic vegetation in aquaculture ponds. By 1970, escapees had established populations in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Today, these troublesome grazers are established in at least nine states and have been sighted in more than 40. Ask just about any bass angler, and he will tell you that the grass carp is public enemy No. 1.

And speaking of carp, we have the federal government to thank for one of the worst management decisions ever in regard to our fisheries. In 1877, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries began intensively cultivating and stocking common carp. In fairness, it was prompted to do so both by public pressure and by overharvest of native fish stocks. By the turn of the century, however, it already was regarded as a nuisance.

“Moreover, their rapid spread appeared to threaten both water quality and native species, as commissioners nationwide noted a deterioration of formerly clear and fertile lakes and waterways upon the arrival of carp,” says the National Park Service.

But you don’t know the half of it. Actually, things could be worse. Much worse. Instead of nutria eating away those Louisiana wetlands, we could have hippos. And who’s to say that these massive “water horses” which can weigh up to 4 tons and eat up to 100 pounds of vegetation a day, wouldn’t have spread east, west, and north?

They are “relatively tolerant of cold conditions,” says the Glen Oak Zoo, which also points out that “many individuals live to 40 years.”

Oh yeah, they also are generally believed to have killed more people in their native Africa than another animal, including lions and crocodiles.

All things considered, I’ll take the nutria, thank you. It tops out at about 12 pounds and is not as likely to charge me at the launch ramp.

But in 1910, Frederick Russell Burnham, a famed American scout and world adventurer, proposed replacing our nation’s depleted wildlife population --- we had hunted deer, turkey, and buffalo nearly to extinction --- with animals that he had encountered in southern Africa.

His proposal lined up nicely with the search for a solution to the growing problem of water hyacinths in Louisiana waters, as well as America’s need for more meat. Writing about this little known piece of American history, Jon Mooallem in American Hippopotamus, says that Rep. of Robert Foligny of New Iberia “liked to plug up problems with big solutions.”

Thus, Foligny introduced H.R. 23261, also known as the “Hippo Bill,” to “appropriate $250,000 for the importation of useful new animals into the United States.” The Washington Post assured readers that they would see shipments of hippos within a few years.

Fortunately for all us, a boatload of hippos never docked in New Orleans. But it wasn’t because of the unexpected discovery of good judgment in Congress. Rather, one representative said that the beasts should not be introduced because unscrupulous hunters would sneak onto the farms and hunt them for trophies.

Yeah, that’s the reason not to import aggressive animals that boast 20-inch teeth and can run at speeds of more than 20 miles per hour.

What turned the tide, though, was that the Department of Agriculture decided to transform swamps and other undeveloped areas into agricultural land to grow more beef cattle.

Thank goodness. Otherwise, we might we watching “Hippo Die-Nasty” instead of “Duck Dynasty” on television.

(This column was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Thursday
Mar132014

Fish Habitat Conservation Act Needs Your Support

 

Please urge your U.S. Senators to support the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, S. 2080, introduced recently by Ben Cardin of Maryland and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

Keep America Fishing says this:

“This vital piece of legislation would strengthen a program that has been in place for close to a decade and contributes to river rehabilitations, reservoir enhancements, salt-marsh protection efforts and other fishery conservation projects across the country.

“Fish habitat resources are of enormous significance to the economy of the United States providing recreation for 60 million anglers; more than 828,000 jobs and approximately $115 billion in economic impact each year relating to recreational fishing; and 575,000 jobs.

“Healthy habitat = healthy fish populations = better fishing!”

Gene Gilliland, National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. adds, "The legislation will provide much needed funding for the 18 fish habitat partnerships.  The one that is most relevant to bass fishing is the Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership and its Friends of Reservoirs Foundation.

 "But several of the other partnerships deal with fish habitat issues in lakes and rivers where you fish and need Congressional support to continue their work."

Go here to take action.The legislation noted below will provide much needed funding for the 18 fish habitat partnerships The one that is most relevant to bass fishing is the Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership and its Friends of Reservoirs Foundation that many of you heard Jeff Boxrucker talk about at the Classic Conservation Summit. But several of the other partnerships deal with fish habitat issues in lakes and rivers where you fish and need Congressional support to continue their work.

Thursday
Mar062014

Bill Introduced to Protect, Enhance Nation's Fisheries

Photo by Robert Montgomery

A bill to authorize a national partnership through a National Fish Habitat Action Plan has been introduced into the U.S. Senate, with the intent of protecting, restoring, and enhancing the nation’s fisheries.

“Choosing to protect our natural resources is good for our environment and our economy. Right now we need deliberate and targeted action to stem the loss of our precious aquatic habitats,” said Maryland’s Ben Cardin, one of the sponsors.

 “Our bill takes a comprehensive approach to stopping the single greatest cause of declining fish populations by stemming the decline of healthy aquatic ecosystems that are critical to all fish species. We need to encourage healthier habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife as well as safer recreational waters for Americans to swim, boat and fish.”

Idaho’s Mike Crapo, the other sponsor, added, “The legislation we’ve introduced stems from Senator Cardin’s and my shared goals of protecting, maintaining, and improving our fish habitats.

 “Instead of creating new regulations and mandates, our bill fosters partnerships between federal, regional, and local stakeholders to work together to promote healthy and sustainable fish populations for our communities.”

Go here to learn more.