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Entries in Congress (45)

Monday
Aug032015

Bill Introduced to Block NPS Plan to Restrict Access at Biscayne National Park

Following the National Park Service's (NPS) decision to close more than 10,000 acres of Biscayne National Park to fishing,  a bipartisan bill, H.R. 3310,  has been introduced in Congress to help stop this and similar unwarranted fishing closures from occurring.

Led by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), and 28 other original sponsors, the “Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act” requires the NPS and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to have approval from state fish and wildlife agencies before closing state waters to recreational or commercial fishing.

“Probably the most concerning aspect of the Biscayne National Park marine reserve decision is the total disregard for the fisheries management expertise of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association.

 “The states are responsible for nearly all of our nation’s saltwater fisheries management successes. This legislative safeguard will prevent the federal government from ignoring the fisheries management expertise of the states in these types of situations.”

Throughout the development of the General Management Plan for Biscayne National Park, through which the marine reserve is being implemented, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided detailed recommendations to improve the condition of the fisheries resources in the park. The Commission has continually insisted that the proposed marine reserve is overly restrictive to the public and will not be biologically effective.

 It also argues that less restrictive management tools can rebuild the park’s fisheries resources and conserve habitat.

The recreational fishing and boating community has echoed these concerns, but nevertheless the National Park Service ultimately elected to close nearly 40 percent of the park’s reef tract to fishing.

“The Congressional leaders who are sponsoring this bill are to be commended for this common sense approach to protect saltwater anglers from unwarranted access restrictions,” said Chris Horton, Fisheries Program director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “The Biscayne National Park marine reserve is part of a concerning trend of closing marine areas without scientific basis or an understanding of the critical role anglers play in the economy and in funding conservation.”

“Marine reserves are a tool in the fisheries management toolbox, but too often we see them promoted with questionable-at-best motivations,” said Jeff Miller, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association Florida’s Government Relations Committee. “This bill will ensure that Florida has a say in important fisheries management decisions in Biscayne National Park, including marine reserves, and that similar issues don’t arise in other parts of the state and country.”

Today the  House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Small Business will hold a joint hearing to explore the potential implications of lost access due to the Biscayne marine reserve.

Friday
Jul312015

BASS, Other Groups Urge Restoration of Funding for Fisheries 

B.A.S.S., along with 30 other conservation organizations, has signed a letter urging Congress to restore funding for sportfishing projects suffering under the current federal budget impasse.

“The letter asks Congress to get off ‘high center’ and do its job, pass a budget and fund conservation programs,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland, “especially including the Sport Fish Restoration Act which is the most important bill up for reauthorization from the freshwater fisheries management standpoint.”

The letter to leaders and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, was sent Tuesday afternoon on behalf of 31 conservation organizations. It stated:
 
“The undersigned sportsmen, conservation, outdoor recreation business and resource professional organizations, collectively representing millions of American hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts would like to urge the Congress to start in earnest the process of a bipartisan and bicameral budget deal that lifts the sequester and can begin to reinvest in absolutely critical conservation funding priorities.
 
“As you know, the expiration of the Murray-Ryan budget deal in just a few short months raises the distinct possibility of a return to sequester-level funding for the domestic discretionary programs that are essential to so many segments of economic growth and job creation. When it comes to the outdoor recreation economy, Budget Control Act funding levels are simply inadequate, and in many cases push a backlog of costs onto future generations of Americans.
 
“As conservation has shrunk as a percentage of the federal budget by half from 1978 until today, the outdoor recreation economy has continued to grow; but that phenomenon is unlikely to endure. If investments in recreation, habitat restoration, access improvement, and facility maintenance continue to fall, we can likely expect the health of the American $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, which employs millions, and puts billions into federal, state, and local tax coffers to suffer.
 
“The impact of insufficient funding is clear: shuttered visitor’s centers, unmaintained trails, closed campgrounds, reduced staff, and degraded habitat. These reductions in service keep Americans from enjoying the outdoors to their fullest potential, and in so doing, unnecessarily constrain an entire segment of the American economy, perhaps most pointedly in the rural countryside most dependent on the annual spending of hunters and anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

"Furthermore, the Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Funds (Trust Funds) are a user pays – public benefits system of fish and wildlife conservation derived from hunters, recreational shooters, anglers and boaters instead of federal income tax dollars. As mandatory programs, the Trust Funds are already being sequestered, and the sequestration rate is expected to increase to 8.5 percent in FY2016. These Trust Funds are the lifeblood of many state resource agency operating budgets, and any bipartisan budget deal should address the issue of sequestering these critical trust funds.

“Many of our organizations applauded the Murray-Ryan budget deal, and likewise we stand ready to support the next iteration of the bipartisan budget leadership necessary to keep American outdoor traditions alive for many future generations.”
 
Among other fishing and hunting organizations signing onto the letter were the American Fisheries Society, American Sportfishing Association, Berkley Conservation Institute, Coastal Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wild Turkey Federation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Wednesday
Jul292015

Anglers Should Support Improving Magnuson-Stevens

As progress is made to better manage the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery, with the likelihood of more angling opportunities for recreational anglers, the Environmental Defense Fund and others who want to restrict access are stepping up their well-funded opposition.

That's why Jeff Angers at the Center for Coastal Conservation encourages fishermen  to talk to their elected officials  during August, urging them to support improving the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

He also points out that, despite its misleading name, the Charter Fisherman's Association does not represent most charter captains in the Gulf.

Here's more from Angers:

In the last six weeks, we’ve made more progress toward improving the Magnuson-Stevens Act on behalf of recreational anglers than at any time in the last six years. 

When you look at how far we’ve come -- passage by the full U.S. House of Representatives of Magnuson-Stevens modernization, approval by the Senate Commerce Committee of the Rubio-Nelson Fisheries Management bill, and introduction just last week of Rep. Garret Graves’ H.R.3094 bipartisan legislation to recognize the Gulf States’ historic cooperative plan for improved red snapper fishery management -- there’s no question we are gaining major yardage.
 
That’s why the shrill rhetoric of our adversaries is reaching new heights.
 
Vastly unpopular in the Gulf region, the Environmental Defense Fund must operate under pseudonyms. One alias (of many) is the “Charter Fisherman’s Association.” Heavily funded by the Washington mega-lobbyists at EDF, when CFA speaks, it’s EDF money doing the talking -- and this week, they’ve been doing a lot of it.
 
My friend Bob Zales is the well-known president of the Panama City Boatmen Association with real-life bona fides as president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO).

Bob’s perspective: “If you poll the 1,300 federally permitted charter vessel owners in the Gulf, over two-thirds would support the proposed five Gulf State plan and legislation recently introduced in the House.” 

Zales added, “Charter Fisherman's Association is an Environmental Defense Fund-created and -funded association to help push the EDF agenda.  Their membership does not represent the majority of charter boat owners in the Gulf.  They are heavily financed by EDF so are able to make a lot of noise in key areas.  The grassroots charter boat owners are not able to be heard as loudly since they cannot afford to travel to D.C., all of the Gulf Council meetings, or areas where a few who are financially supported can.”

Zales speaks the truth. Federally permitted charter owners know, just like we do, that federal Gulf red snapper fishery management is badly broken. These hard-working folks are no more supportive of the status quo than we are, and they trust the states to do a better job, just like we do. 

Still, EDF’s money buys a lot of talk and we have to make sure our representatives and senators hear the truth.
 
We’re making progress, but we can’t stop now.  Now is the time to redouble our efforts to seek out our elected representatives when they conduct town hall meetings or hold office hours during the upcoming August Congressional Recess.
 
Tell your elected representatives how important it is to modernize the Magnuson-Stevens Act so recreational anglers like us can have a fair shake.  Remind them of the jobs we create and the money we contribute to fisheries conservation.
 
Tell them, “I fish -- I fish and I vote."

Tuesday
Jun162015

Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation Endorsed by CCC

The Center for Coastal Conservation has endorsed Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC), a new online advocacy system that allows fishing enthusiasts to write, call, or tweet their federal officials easily and intuitively.  The BASC site -- BassforSalt.com -- was launched on June 1 by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, B.A.S.S.

“It is more important than ever that America’s 46 million anglers make our voices heard, and Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation will make it easy for us to do so,” said Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers, calling the new B.A.S.S. initiative “a powerful new advocacy tool.”

“Whether you fish in saltwater or freshwater, I encourage you to visit BassforSalt.com today and speak out about the sport we love,” Angers added.

At BassforSalt.com, fishing enthusiasts can contact their members of Congress by email, call, or Tweet.  The site provides both informational talking points and prewritten materials, so that anglers can reach out with ease to their federal officials.

Angers said he is hopeful the fishing community will use BassforSalt.com to urge Congress and President Obama to protect recreational access to thriving fish stocks.

“With Congress considering the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary legislation affecting recreational fishing in federal waters , and with Washington imposing unrealistic restrictions on fishing from the Carolinas to Biscayne Bay and the Gulf of Mexico,  it’s time we as anglers make our voices heard,” Angers said.  

Monday
Jun012015

Bass Anglers Urged to Join Battle to Protect Saltwater Fishing

B.A.S.S. announced today, along with a large coalition of angler groups, the official launch of Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC), a new intuitive online advocacy system that allows fishing enthusiasts to write, call or tweet their legislators through prewritten engagements online.

“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation is, at its core, an opportunity for fans of bass fishing and B.A.S.S. to channel their passion for all things fishing into good public policies that concern our sport,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO.

“Right now, the fisheries policy battles in Congress are focused on saltwater fishing, but tomorrow these issues could spread to freshwater lakes, rivers, or countless other fisheries we love to fish.

“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation was designed to give all anglers a voice and platform by which to contact lawmakers and advocate for the preservation and growth of recreational angling, and we are proud to support it. Through this new advocacy system, we hope to create a brotherhood of anglers that defends fisheries access for all anglers, regardless of where they fish.”

By accessing Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation, BassforSalt.com, fishing enthusiasts can simply fill out their constituent information and contact their legislators through the method they choose. BASC then automatically identifies the appropriate legislators and provides users with talking points for a call, a pre-written letter, or even a pre-written tweet based on the user’s preferences.

The timing of the debut of the website is appropriate, said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. He noted that the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — the nation’s primary marine fisheries law — along with three key amendments to benefit recreational fishing.

“Opportunities to change federal fisheries management policy don't come along very often,” Gilliland said. “In this case the thousands of bass anglers who also fish in saltwater need to contact their congressmen today! Encourage them to vote in favor of greater recreational fishing opportunity.”

Professional bass anglers also are joining the push to get freshwater fishermen more involved on issues that threaten all types of sportfishing.

“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation isn’t just for bass anglers,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jeff Kriet. “Many of the anglers I know fish in both salt and freshwater. The issues our coastal fisheries currently face could easily translate into freshwater if we do not take action.
 

“In order to ensure that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same fishing experiences as the anglers of today, regardless of what they fish for or where they like to fish, we must raise a unified voice to the nation’s legislators. When the 33 million anglers in the U.S. come together for positive change, we are a force that cannot be ignored.”

The primary threat to the future of saltwater fishing is lack of access to thriving fish stocks. One example of this is the current situation with red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Once considered one of the most prized fish in the Gulf, red snapper’s federal season was reduced to a mere nine days in 2014, and only 10 days in 2015. However, according to the National Marine Fisheries Services’ own numbers, the population of Gulf Red Snapper is nearing its highest level in decades.

Those who oppose recreational fishing are driving situations exactly like that of red snapper throughout America’s oceans, and may soon bring the battle to freshwater fisheries. If anglers stand idly by while this happens, the opportunities to continue the sport will be greatly endangered.

Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation provides a simple, easy-to-use tool for anglers to stand up against misguided policies. As policy battles move through Congress and the federal bureaucracy, anglers and recreational fishing enthusiasts will have the ability to contact their senators and representatives, as well as cabinet members and even the President of the United States with the click of a mouse. BASC will send action alerts to anglers who sign up for the newsletter, so that anglers everywhere can stay up-to-date on the policies that affect sportfishing.