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Entries in Congress (33)


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.)


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.


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.



House Group Looks to Stop Abuses of Endangered Species Act

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Arguably the bald eagle, our national emblem, would be extinct if not for the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The legislation also has helped with recovery of the wolf and alligator, as well as lesser known species.

But critics charge that it also is being abused by environmental groups that want to force the federal government to spend billions of dollars restricting use of both public and private lands and waters.

As a consequence, the U.S. House of Representatives has formed an Endangered Species Act Working Group. Throughout the coming year, the group will sponsor events, forums, and hearings on how well the act is working, how it could be updated, and how to boost its effectiveness.

“We should be good stewards of the planet God gave us and its inhabitants,” said Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford. “But federal laws protecting dwindling animal populations should be crafted to actually access the problems they intend to solve. Current law, including the ESA, is outdated and does more to protect paperwork than animals.”

As an example of the paperwork problem, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) late last summer to protect 53 new species of amphibians and reptiles. This followed closely on a 2011 settlement between the Interior Department, CBD, and WildEarth Guardians that covered 779 species in 85 lawsuits and legal actions. In exchange for FWS taking action on those species during the next seven years, the two groups agreed to limit lawsuits so that efforts could be focused on accomplishing the terms of the agreement.

This second petition does not directly violate the terms of the settlement, but it does divert money and resources away from species recovery and disregards the spirit of the settlement by adding to the agency’s backlog of petitions.

“Time and gain, CBD and other similar groups have undermined the goal of the ESA by litigating, obstructing, and frustrating the FWS while racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded attorney fees that continue to feed their litigious strategies to the detriment of species and people,” the House Committee on Natural Resources said in a statement.

As an example of the cost of implementing the ESA as it currently is enforced, FWS estimates that restoring habitat for two species of mussels--- the Neosho mucket and the rabbitsfoot--- will cost between $4.4 and $5.9 million during the next 20 years. And it  admits that  “the majority of these costs are administrative.”

“I believe that we all support the goal of wanting to preserve, protect, and recover key domestic species,” said Committee Chairman Doc Hastings. “Forty years after it was signed into law, and 25 years since it was last renewed by Congress, I hope there can also be recognition that there are ways this law can be improved and made to work better for both people and species.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Tell Congress That You Support Access Act for Fishing, Hunting

We’re losing our waters. Both development and government regulations--- pushing by anti-fishing groups--- are taking them away. In fact, one in five anglers has lost access to a favorite fishing spot during the past year, according to surveys.

That means federal properties --- lands and waters owned by all of us--- are more important than ever for recreational fishing.

In early 2013, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) introduced the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act (S. 170, H.R. 1825) into both chambers of Congress. This bill would facilitate the use of, and access to, federal public lands and waters for recreational fishing, hunting and shooting. 

Keep America Fishing says, “To help ensure that current and future generations are able to access and fish in our nation's federal lands and waters, please send a message to your legislators today urging them to co-sponsor this important legislation.”

Go here to take action through Keep America Fishing.