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Entries in Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (10)

Wednesday
Nov062013

CSC Seeks to Regain Fisheries Funds Stolen by Feds in Sequestration

Senate leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) is pushing for restoration of $50 million for fish and wildlife management by the states. In a stunning act of bureaucratic malfeasance, the money was withheld last spring as part of federal sequestration.

But as I pointed out then, “This is not money that would come from the general budget. This is money already collected as excise taxes on fishing and hunting gear and motorboat fuel by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“And this is money reserved, by law, to be used only for fisheries and wildlife management under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.

“But because of poorly written legislation, 5.1 percent of it can be withheld from the states as part of the sequestration process.”

Now, Senate CSC leaders have sent a letter to the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), requesting that money be released for use by the states.

“We salute the bipartisan leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus for once again standing up in support of hunters and anglers,” said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

“These dedicated trust funds form the financial backbone of the most successful conservation story in history, and to release them to the state wildlife agencies where they belong is simply the right thing to do.”

The funds are the foundation of the unique American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays-public benefits” program that has enhanced fish and wildlife populations, improved habitat, and boosted public access to lands and waters.

In the letter, CSC leadership noted that in implementing sequestration, OMB is required to follow rules outlined in the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. The act provides that budgetary resources sequestered in trust fund accounts in a fiscal year "shall be available in subsequent years to the extent otherwise provided in law."

In March, CSF, along with 44 organizations representing millions of hunters, anglers and other conservationists, asked House and Senate leadership assistance in exempting the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Safety Trust Funds from the Budget Sequestration Act of 2011. But no relief was forthcoming.

Go here and click the “clean air and water” tab to see how much money for fisheries and wildlife management that your state lost because of this idiotic and unnecessary damage to the nation’s natural resources.

Friday
Sep132013

Red Snapper Bill Would Turn Over Management to States

Finally, something is being done to untangle the awful mess made of the red snapper fishery by the feds.

Introduced by a bipartisan coalition, the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act would establish a coordinated Gulf states partnership through which the states would comply with a management plan approved and adopted by the Gulf States Marines Fisheries Commission. The partnership would be similar to how the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission manages striped bass and how the Gulf states manage red drum (redfish).

“There are many examples where a shift to state-based management of a given fishery resource has been called for, producing better results,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.

 “State fish and wildlife management professionals have a strong track record of managing their fishery resources in order to achieve the right balance between sustainability and quality fishing opportunities. The ongoing red snapper debacle in the Gulf is begging for the opportunity to put proven state-based management approaches to work.”

Federal management of this popular recreational species has been broken for years, and reached rock bottom in 2013 when frustration over status quo management compelled several Gulf states to seek greater control of the fishery in their own waters. In retaliation, the National Marine Fisheries Service used an emergency rule process to reduce the recreational season to nine days off Louisiana and 12 days off Texas. Both states sued and a federal court overturned the action.

The legislation comes after the governors of four Gulf states released a joint letter to the U.S. House and Senate leadership stating that federal management of Gulf red snapper is “irretrievably broken,” and calling for a coordinated Gulf states partnership for red snapper management. In a sign of broad support for the concept of state-based management of fish and wildlife resources, the entire leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus has signed on to the bill.

“The reality is that federal management of the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper fishery is fundamentally flawed, and it is negatively impacting anglers and the coastal economies that depend on access to that fishery,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane.

“Federal management of red snapper has painted itself into a corner,” added Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We have a robust red snapper population in the Gulf, but 2013 was as chaotic a season as anglers have ever seen. The season started as the shortest ever, saw a revolt by some states that resulted in even shorter seasons, endured a lawsuit, received a glowing stock assessment and the promise of a fall season, only to crash on wild estimates of overharvest that put the fall season in jeopardy.

“This is no way to manage a fishery, and this legislation presents a way out of this no-win situation. Congressman (Rep. Jeff of Florida) Miller is a true champion of American anglers for taking the lead on this legislation. His leadership brings a reliable, workable solution that allows the Gulf states to better manage red snapper conservation.”

Friday
Sep212012

Fishing, Hunting Important for Nation's Economy

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) learned this week about the rise in hunting and fishing participation and its importance to this country.

"To put it in perspective, the 37 million sportsmen and women over the age of 16 in America is the same as the population of the state of California, and the $90 billion they spent in 2011 is the same as the global sales of Apple's iPad™ and iPhone™ in the same year," said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation.

"Hunting and fishing have been, and clearly continue to be, important elements of our country's outdoor heritage and they are critically important to our nation's economy - particularly the small local economies that support quality hunting and fishing opportunities."

The CSC was briefed by a coalition of angling groups and the outdoor industry, with information obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey on Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation. To show the importance of fishing and hunting participation and expenditures, these groups compared them to mainstream industries.

Released in August, the data shows a 9 percent increase in hunters and an 11 percent increase in anglers, compared to the 2006 survey. (Since this information refers only to those 16 and older, actual participation is likely higher when adding in youth.)

Most importantly, hunters and anglers continued their strong spending habits. From equipment expenditures ($8.2 billion for hunters, $6.2 billion for anglers) to special equipment ($25 billion towards boats, RV's, ATV's and other such vehicles) to trip-related expenses totaling over $32 billion, sportsmen and women continue to direct their discretionary income toward their outdoor pursuits.

"The economic impact of hunting and fishing is profound in South Dakota and across the country," said Sen. John Thune (South Dakota), Republican Senate Co-Chair of the CSC. "It's important that we have policies that promote hunting and fishing and support the outdoor industries."

"People don't think about hunting and fishing in terms of economic growth," added Sen. Jon Tester (Montana), Democratic Senate Co-Chair of the CSC. "The statistics in the new economic impact report are great and will go a long way to telling the public just how important hunting and fishing are in this country."

Beyond the impact to businesses and local economies, sportsmen and women have played an essential and unmatched role in conserving fish and wildlife and their habitats. Sportsmen and women are the nation's most ardent conservationists, putting money toward state fish and wildlife management.

When you combine license and stamp fees, excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, the tax from small engine fuel and membership contributions to conservation organizations, hunters and anglers directed $3 billion towards on-the-ground conservation and restoration efforts in 2011 - that is over $95 every second.

This does not include their own habitat acquisition and restoration work for lands owned or leased for the purpose of hunting and fishing, which would add another $11 billion to the mix.

"This is the 75th anniversary of our nation's system of conservation funding - a model that is envied throughout the world - that directs excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment toward state-based conservation,” said Michael Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.

“The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs have resulted in robust fish and wildlife populations and quality habitat that is the legacy of the industry and sportsmen and women.”

 

Tuesday
Sep182012

Candidates Shares Views About Recreational Fishing

Activist Angler sends a respectful “thanks” to Keep America Fishing for asking both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney how they would address fisheries conservation and angler access issues.

“We asked these questions to inform and empower anglers to be active advocates for the sportfishing community” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.

 “Anglers represent a huge voting block that can significantly impact the 2012 presidential election. It is vital to the future of sportfishing that anglers are informed and use their vote as a voice.”

The questions addressed to both candidates are good ones. But, alas, both men (or their staffs) answered mostly in generalities and platitudes.

As you can read for yourself, neither man is an angler. But on the plus side for Romney, his vice president running mate, Paul Ryan, is an avid hunter and angler and a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

Also on the plus side for Romney, he favors smaller government and less federal intrusion into matters that can be handled by the states. The states have shown remarkable success in managing our fish and wildlife, but Obama’s National Ocean Policy (NOP), if/when fully implemented, could end all of that for fisheries.

Of course, Obama does not view his NOP, fully embraced by preservationists and environmental groups, as a threat to recreational fishing.

“My administration is working to responsibly manage our nation's oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes to ensure that fishermen can access the local waters they care most about and that those waters support healthy, vibrant populations of fish,” he said.

But that “responsible management” includes a huge top-down management system in which federal bureaucrats tell us where we can and cannot fish.

“There has been a lot of talk surrounding the National Ocean Policy, so let me set the record straight: the new policy in no way restricts any ocean, coastal, or Great Lakes activity,” the President also said.

And, you know what? He’s right. The same can be said of California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). It has in no way restricted recreational fishing in that state’s coastal waters.

But you know what else? Those administering the MLPA have used it to shut down fisheries. And the same almost certainly will happen with the NOP if Obama wins a second term.

On the Republican side, Romney was asked about his intent to divert fishing and hunting license fees to other programs when he was governor of Massachusetts. Not a good thing.

His answer was a good one. Here is a part of it:

“I reconsidered the decision to divert license fees after I received input from local stakeholders, both anglers and others, who expressed to me why this decision should be reconsidered,” he said.

“Once I understood what this diversion of funds will do, I reversed course and found another way to leave my state with a $2 million rainy day fund when I left office.

“This is the same attitude I will bring to the presidency. I have a plan to get this economy back on track, but I also understand the importance of hearing our state and local agencies and fishermen themselves when these types of decisions are made."

Read the full interviews here.

Monday
Aug272012

Four More Years Would Be Disaster for Recreational Fishing

 

Many in the outdoor media are critical of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for cutting or attempting to cut funds for various federal conservation programs.

I’m not one of them.

Yes, I would like that funding to continue. Yes, I believe that we could continue to finance those programs despite the budget deficit --- if we could eliminate the billions in fraud and waste perpetrated by corrupt politicians who are so adept at spending other people’s money. But that is as likely to happen as teaching pigs to fly so that we can save shipping costs for ham and bacon.

Republicans elected to the House in 2010 --- many of them supported by Tea Party affiliates --- went to Washington, D.C., with the intent of shrinking government, reducing taxes, and cutting back on spending.

I support that agenda and, sadly, realize that enacting it will mean reduced budgets for all if we are to avoid the collapse of our economy because of insurmountable debt.

On the other hand, four more years of Obama will push us to the precipice of economic collapse, with Greece providing us with a preview of what could happen here.

Meanwhile, many of those same folks in the outdoor media have been ignoring the threat that four more years of this president also will pose for recreational fishing.

Let’s start with funding. States finance their fisheries programs primarily with license fees and money collected as excise taxes on tackle, equipment, and motorboat fuel through the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. If the first four years are any indication --- and I believe that they are --- a second term would be catastrophic for our economy and, by extension, the fishing industry. That could mean less money for fisheries management, as anglers cut back on discretionary spending to make ends meet. 

The National Ocean Policy is the 500-pound gorilla in the room. By-passing Congress with an Executive Order, Obama has created a massive bureaucracy that will tell us where we can and cannot fish through a strategy called “marine spatial planning.” In reality, it is death by a thousand cuts for angling, as one fishery after another will be shut down by nameless bureaucrats.

Catch Shares is a second strategy pushed by this administration to limit access. Supposedly, it is being done for conservation. In reality, it is a scheme to privatize a public resource, as “shares” of an ocean fishery are allotted to individuals and/or companies. Right now, mostly it is directed at species harvested commercially. But if incorporated into “mixed” (commercial and recreation) fisheries, it will limit participation, as the sport sector will be limited to the same fixed amount each year.

The National Ocean Policy and Catch Shares are brought to us by preservationists from environmental groups that Obama has brought into his administration. Special interests aren’t just influencing public policy; they are setting it. 

If this President gets a second term, look for de-emphasizing of sport fisheries programs within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies, attempts to reduce access for anglers and hunters by establishment of land and marine preserves, and renewed boldness by anti-fishing groups that want to ban lead fishing tackle.

Also, look for this administration to continue “searching” for a solution that will keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, as it sides with Illinois in opposing the obvious solution --- closing the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. Eliminating that entry/exit not only would help keep carp out, but it would prevent other invasives from moving between the two systems.

I don’t know if Romney/Ryan would be any better about policy regarding this last issue. But I suspect that they would, given that Ryan, now a representative from Wisconsin, is both an angler and a hunter and would have a better appreciation of the value of the Great Lakes sport fishery. He also is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

What I do know is that this President is not a friend of angling. He might not be personally against it, but many in his administration either have no regard for it or they do oppose it. That, combined with four more years of economic hardship for this country, would be crushing for recreational fishing.

Please keep that in mind when you go to the polls in November.  And if you are an angler who usually does not vote, I hope that this will motivate you to do so.