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Entries in Congress (57)

Wednesday
Apr122017

There’s nothing like the adventure of saltwater fishing. The adrenaline rush of hooking into a billfish, a big striper, or hard-fighting redfish is second to none. That thrill is undoubtedly what attracts more than 11 million Americans to the sport.

Unfortunately, the laws that govern federal saltwater fisheries are out of date and have never taken recreational anglers into account. This has led to shortened or even cancelled seasons, reduced bag limits, and unnecessary restrictions.

The good news is a new law is making its way through Congress that should fix those problems.

The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act, or Modern Fish Act for short, has just been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rather than focusing on commercial fishing, the new bill is a comprehensive package specifically aimed at addressing the needs of the nation’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers.

The Modern Fish Act will improve access to America’s federal waters and promote conservation of our natural marine resources. Simply put, that means more and better fishing.

Tell your Representative to support the Modern Fish Act today.

Wednesday
Mar082017

Pollution Is Not Good, But Neither was Obama Clean Water Rule

Capt. Steve Chaconas with Potomac River bass

President Trump recently signed an Executive Order to roll back Obama's  2015 "clean water rule," which greatly expanded federal authority over public and private waters. Below is my 2014 analysis of the proposal, before it was enacted by executive fiat.

 *     *     *     *

We all live downstream.

Thus, pollution poses an exponential threat to our waters and our fisheries. And in a perfect world, no one would pollute.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

As a consequence, we pollute, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes flagrantly. Along the Potomac River, signs once warned that just touching the water could be hazardous to human health. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught fire. And Lake Erie was known as a “dead sea.” The list of waters degraded and almost destroyed by pollution is a long and shameful one.

We, however, also have learned to clean up after ourselves, prompted by the federal Clean Water Act of1972. Erie now is one of the nation’s most productive fisheries. The Potomac is nationally known for its bass fishing. And the Cuyahoga, a river once devoid of fish, now is home to 44 species. The list of waters enhanced and restored is a long and hopeful one, and we arguably do more to protect our aquatic resources than any other country in the world.

That doesn’t mean that we’ve done as much as we can or should do to minimize pollution. But neither are we living in a time when rivers are catching on fire and as much needs to be done or even can be done, for that matter.

But that doesn’t keep some from trying, especially those who believe that more big government is the solution to our imperfections. That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to expand the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ to include water on private property.

Additionally, under new proposals, jurisdiction would extend to streams regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, as well as to ditches, gullies, and just about any low spot where moisture collects on a seasonal basis.

And that’s why the move is being heartily endorsed by environmental groups, who argue that court rulings have weakened the CWA.

“It’s taking the way the Clean Water Act works back, so that it works the way water works in the real world,” said Bob Wendelgass of Clean Water Action.

But just how far do you allow the federal government to intrude on the rights of private property owners? Those rights are a cornerstone of who we are as a nation and why so many from all over the world want to live here.

“The EPA’s draft water rule is a massive power grab of private property across the U.S,” said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith from Texas. “This could be the largest expansion of EPA regulatory authority ever.

“If the draft rule is approved, it would allow the EPA to regulate virtually every body of water in the United States, including private and public lakes, ponds, and streams.”

While I understand and even sympathize with the environmental side of this argument, I do not support such an expansion of power using regulations written by anonymous, unelected bureaucrats. Such decisions should be left up to Congress, which represents the people.

Additionally, many who want to impose ever more strict environmental regulations upon industries, agriculture, municipalities, and now private property owners do so with unrealistic expectations. In their never-ending quest for perfection, they want to reduce pollution limits to levels that can’t even be measured.

“These folks live in la-la land,” one water quality expert told me. “If you attack these things (regulations) as unrealistic, you are evil.

“What I’d really like to see is for them to sustain themselves on their own little happy ¼-acre subdivision lot. I’d be willing to bet every single one of them has a nice, cozy temperature-controlled house, pantry full of food, a sink with a spigot full of safe drinking water and a shower and toilet that take away all that nasty that they just can’t think about, much less live with, while they point fingers at everyone else.”

So . . . would I like to see an end to all pollution?  Absolutely. After all, we all live downstream.

But I believe that’s an unrealistic expectation, considering our prevalence and dominance as a species on this planet. Let’s keep trying to reduce our pollution footprint, but let’s do so with consent of the governed and with realistic standards, not those imposed by anonymous bureaucrats who live in “la-la land.”

Wednesday
Feb222017

Della Torre First Recipient of Noreen Clough Memorial Scholarship

Whitney (Jacobs) Della Torre is the first recipient of the Noreen Clough Memorial Scholarship for Females in Fisheries.

As the first female regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and later as the conservation director of B.A.S.S., Clough blazed many trails in fisheries. Her long and distinguished career was dedicated to the conservation and management of fish and wildlife. Along the way, she served as a mentor to many and a revered colleague to countless others. Noreen passed away in January 2015 from pancreatic cancer.

As a tribute to Noreen’s impact on careers and lives and for the good of the resources she helped conserve, friends and colleagues established an endowment to provide a scholarship in her memory to a female student working toward a career in fisheries conservation. This year there were 29 applicants representing 19 different colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada.



“Noreen felt that the issues debated in state legislatures and in Congress were where we stood to make the most progress in protecting our natural resources,” said Gene Gilliand,  B.A.S.S. conservation director. “This scholarship continues her legacy by encouraging students to get involved in the policy world where they can make a real difference.”

Della Torre worked for U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia after she finished her undergraduate studies and became interested in natural resource policy. She returned to school and received a master’s degree from the University of Georgia, studying environmental science.

While completing that degree, Whitney worked part-time for B.A.S.S. as Noreen Clough’s intern, assisting in various aspects of the conservation agenda and helping with every facet of Conservation Summits put on at the 2012 and 2014 Bassmaster Classics.

Whitney said of Noreen, “The first time I met her she gave me career advice that I will forever cherish. She told me to make my work relevant.”

Noreen’s mentorship inspired Whitney to follow that passion for environmental science and policy and enter law school at the University of Florida, where she is  completing her third year. Whitney recently accepted a job offer as an associate at an environmental law firm in Birmingham, Ala., where, following graduation, she hopes to be involved with aquatic and natural resource issues, while volunteering her service to the B.A.S.S. Nation.


About B.A.S.S. Conservation
For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. Conservation has focused on issues related to fisheries and aquatic resource conservation. We work with government agencies to develop sound management policies that protect and enhance aquatic resources. We partner with others to ensure government policies provide for these resources without compromising sportfishing opportunities. And through the B.A.S.S. Nation, we provide volunteer efforts to enhance fisheries resources and protect our sport. B.A.S.S. is world-renowned for state-of-the-art tournament fish care.

Friday
Oct212016

Report Released to Improve Recreational Access for Saltwater Fisheries

Fishing conservation organizations and trade associations recently released recommendations that they hope the incoming Administration and Congress will follow to improve access to saltwater recreational fishing, create economic growth, and enhance the conservation of marine fish stocks.

"While our highly successful model of inland recreational fisheries management is often envied by countries around the world, in many cases federal management of our marine recreational fisheries continues to struggle in meeting the needs of the angling public," said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation.

 "The Vision document provides recommendations that will bring federal fisheries management into the 21st Century, enhancing both the conservation and economic contributions of America's anglers."

A Vision for Marine Fisheries Management in the 21st Century: Priorities for a New Administration recommends a shift away from using the same tools to manage commercial fishing and recreational fishing at the federal level. New approaches should reflect the reality of demand for recreational access to our marine fishery resources, the current economic activity associated with that access, and the scientific data of the light footprint recreational access has on our fishery resources.

 “While progress has been made in recent years to improve saltwater recreational fisheries management, many important opportunities and challenges remain,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman.

 “We look forward to working with the next Administration to fully develop our outdoor economy including embracing the important role that saltwater recreational fishing plays in creating jobs and promoting sustainable enjoyment of our nation’s fisheries resources.”
The report points out antiquated federal policies that have inhibited a vital source of economic growth and a proud American tradition.  It highlights the economic value of recreational fishing in coastal waters. Today, 11 million American anglers fish for recreation in saltwater. From license sales to retail sales, the recreational saltwater fishing industry contributes more than $70 billion annually in economic activity and generates 455,000 jobs.

However, outdated federal management policies threaten to stem this positive economic trend.
“Fishing is a treasured pastime and tradition for millions of Americans and needs to be treated as such,” said Jeff Anglers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

“The new Administration and Congress should take steps to keep this tradition alive – for the benefit of all those who enjoy fishing, for the hundreds of thousands employed in the recreational fishing industry, and for future generations of anglers who will fall in love with the sea.”

Friday
Sep302016

House Approves Financial Help for Florida's Water Pollution Crisis

Legislation was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives this week that could help alleviate the environmental crisis plaguing Florida's coastal waters, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and, by extension, Florida Bay.

In passing the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the House by an overwhelming 399-25 vote included $1.9 billion in critical funding for the Central Everglades Planning Project, as well as authorization for waterway access improvements and the use of natural infrastructure wherever possible.

In a nutshell, coastal waters on both sides of the state have been damaged by nutrient-rich waters discharged out of Okeechobee, which feed massive blue-green algal blooms. Before man's interference, high water at the Big O flowed naturally south in the Everglades, where it was filtered, even as it sustained life there. From there, it provided vital fresh water to Florida Bay.

But levees were built to prevent flooding around the lake and allow for development south of it. And that required discharging the water east and west.

“The sportfishing industry recognizes that it is vital for the Florida Everglades to receive funding as soon as possible to expedite the implementation of multi-year projects that will help fix the water quality and water management challenges that plague south Florida,” said American Sportfishing Association Government Affairs Vice President Scott Gudes. “These projects have been through an extensive review process and will provide significant environmental benefits by moving more water south from Lake Okeechobee. We encourage Congress to conference quickly on a final bill so that appropriations and construction can begin as soon as possible.”  Gary Jennings, Keep Florida Fishing manager, added, “These projects will bring much-needed relief to our state’s estuary systems.

"Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World, and we thank lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate for recognizing the urgent need for measures that will have a major positive impact on fisheries conservation, ecosystem restoration and water quality.”

In a joint statement, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and ranking member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) expressed confidence that reconciling the differing versions of WRDA reauthorization in conference will be relatively easy.

"The strong, bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives is a clear sign that we can reconcile the House and Senate bills swiftly and smoothly," they said.