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Today, the four House leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Gene Green (D-Texas), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), introduced the bipartisan “Sportsmen’s Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act,” or SCORE Act (HR 3173), in the 114th Congress. Combined with the previously introduced SHARE Act (HR 2406), these bills constitute a major victory for fish and wildlife habitat, and improved access for America’s hunters and anglers.
Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.), all past chairs of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, are also supporting SCORE.
“The sportsmen’s community can stand squarely behind this bill as a great step forward in protecting our ability to fund and implement the conservation of at-risk habitats, species, and access,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s a good example of bipartisan legislation that addresses the needs of America’s hunters and anglers, and we’d like to see a lot more of that consensus.”
The bill contains seven provisions to reauthorize or implement legislation that helps fund conservation programs on federal and private lands, which boosts sportsmen’s access to quality hunting and fishing, including reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). Prior to its expiration in 2011, FLTFA had leveraged strategic federal land sales to fund 39 priority conservation projects, including many that expanded sportsmen’s access to world-class hunting and fishing opportunities.
“There is a lot to like in this legislation,” said Kameran Onley, director of U.S. government relations for The Nature Conservancy. “It shows a significant bipartisan commitment to conservation and wildlife habitat protection, as well as sportsmen’s access and recreational opportunities that help grow our economy. We’re encouraged to see the bill include so many effective, fiscally-sound programs that provide both economic and conservation benefits.”
The Act would reauthorize two conservation grant programs with matched-dollar incentives: the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. Each federal dollar invested in these grant programs is matched, on average, three times over by non-federal dollars that have major on-the-ground impacts for the conservation of wetlands, waterfowl, and other wildlife. “Conserving and protecting our nation’s wetlands is at the core of Ducks Unlimited,” said DU’s Chief Policy Officer Margaret Everson. “NAWCA funding is a critical component for DU to carry out our mission of conserving, restoring, and managing wetlands and habitats for North America’s waterfowl. We’re pleased this legislation calls for the reauthorization of these programs and appreciate the continued support for our community from Representatives Wittman, Walz, Duncan, and Green.”
A provision often referred to as Making Public Lands Public, which has garnered significant bipartisan support as a standalone piece of legislation, is also a part of the package. It requires that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund monies be made available to establish and expand recreational access to federal public lands. “We are thrilled to see bi-partisan support for the SCORE Act, and we are particularly excited to see the ‘Making Public Lands Public’ provision included,” said Land Tawney, executive director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA). “Public lands are the cornerstone of our sporting heritage and public access to these lands is a priority for BHA. We look forward to swift action and ultimate passage of the SCORE Act. The steak has sizzled on the grill long enough—it’s time to set the table and pass a sportsmen’s package.”
SCORE includes a sense of Congressional support for the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, which was previously introduced in Congress in 2014 to improve fish habitat through partnerships that foster conservation projects or enhance recreational fishing opportunities. These partnerships would “support the economic significance of fish habitat resources and the recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing linked to these resources in the United States.”
“The recreational fishing industry strongly supports and, in fact, depends on healthy fish habitat that provides abundant fish stocks, which are enjoyed by our nation’s 60 million anglers,” said Mike Leonard, ocean resource policy director for the American Sportfishing Association and National Fish Habitat Partnership board member. “In addition to the other public access and habitat improvement provisions in this bill, we strongly support the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act and hope to see it advance in this Congress as part of a broader sportsmen’s package.”
Finally, SCORE would reauthorize the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a congressionally-chartered grant-making organization that works with public and private stakeholders, and Partners for Fish and Wildlife, which assists private landowners in preserving habitat for federally-managed species. “It’s vitally important that Congress now pass the SCORE Act, so that these important conservation measures can continue and the investments the American public has made in wildlife conservation programs can reap rewards for years to come,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “We’re particularly pleased to see reauthorization of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, because this important program helps private landowners keep working lands working.”
The National Wild Turkey Federation also supports this legislation, which pairs well with their ‘Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt’ initiative. “This bill helps us protect habitat that supports wildlife and hunting access, thus protecting our hunting heritage for millions of Americans to enjoy,” said Becky Humphries, chief conservation officer for NWTF.
SHARE, which has also been supported by sportsmen’s groups, assures access for hunters and anglers, while SCORE seeks to improve habitat. Together, these bills assure a bright future for American sportsmen and women.
“The SCORE Act has major implications for wildlife habitat conservation in the United States and provides vital funding for partnership efforts to preserve and safeguard America’s outdoor traditions,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever, Inc. “Pheasants Forever and its members urge Congress to swiftly pass this bipartisan legislation for our nation’s wild places, wildlife, and all who enjoy it.”
The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress
The House and Senate are in session this week.
Both chambers gavel in on Tuesday with just two weeks left until the start of an August recess. The last stretch of this work period looks to be chock full of maneuvering around the Highway Bill, especially the extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which expires on July 31. Failure to extend the Trust Fund would bring road projects around the country to a grinding, and politically embarrassing, halt. Last week, the House passed by a wide margin a five-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund that holds just through the end of 2015. The Senate, however, appears set to continue moving forward on a more extensive reauthorization through at least the end of calendar year 2016, setting the stage for a showdown between the two chambers next week.
Also on everyone’s minds: On Sunday, the White House formally presented the negotiated Iran deal to Congress, which will have 60 days to review it.
On the Floor
The House will consider Rep. McKinley’s (R-WV) H.R. 1734 dealing with coal ash as well as H.R. 1599 authored by Rep Pompeo (R-KS) related to GMO food labeling. There is some possibility that the NDAA conference report will be on the House floor late this week.
The Senate will spend the entirety of the week on a Highway Bill reauthorization, with the procedural path forward not entirely clear. It seems unlikely that the Senate will be able to finish the bill this week. Several filibuster threats exist, although for issues not directly related to the bill itself, those hurdles include ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood and reauthorizing the Ex-Im bank.
Tuesday, July 21
Conservation Funding Alert: Full Senate Finance Committee mark-up of tax extenders bill (you can see the Chairman’s mark here)
Wednesday, July 22
Full House Agriculture oversight hearing on USDA.
Thursday, July 23
House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Oversight hearing on the renewable fuel standard
Public Lands: House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing on new and innovative ideas for national parks
House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing on water management legislation, endangered salmon
Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee may move to markup comprehensive energy legislation prior to the August recess. No official markups have been scheduled.
Welcome to the TRCP’s fifth annual Saltwater Media Summit, where we brought together key members of the media to discuss the most pressing issues facing saltwater recreational fishing. This year, for the first time ever, the summit was held in conjunction with ICAST, the American Sportfishing Association’s trade show in Orlando, Florida. Our one-day summit focused on a variety of conservation topics relevant to the sportfishing community today—and tomorrow.
“We want to get the word out about some important issues relating to sportfishing in America,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO, in his opening remarks to the standing-room-only crowd at the Orange County Convention Center. “There is also a remarkable economic story about sportfishing. It’s big business. And it can’t be exported to China.”
Making Red Snapper Numbers Add Up
In his lead-in to the panel about recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the fishing community’s most contentious topics, Fosburgh said the species exemplifies everything that’s right and wrong with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. “The folks on the recreational side say they have been shut out of rebuilt fisheries, while the commercial guys are catching a lot of fish,” he said.
Dr. Roy Crabtree, Regional Administrator for the NOAA Fisheries Service, admitted that the council charged with federal oversight of the fish has been in a deadlock over proposed changes to the system, but collaboration between states and federal fisheries managers is, and will be, necessary to satisfy commercial and recreational anglers. “Yes, there are more red snapper out there than there have been for the past 30 to 40 years,” he said. “But in planning the seasons, we’re trying to predict the length of time it should take to reach 80% of the quota, and there’s a margin of error there.”
Crabtree also discussed the challenges of the solutions already on the table for dealing with short recreational seasons and sector separation, including having the states discuss allocation of seasons. “Regional management of red snapper would be complicated,” he said. “Some regions may benefit at the expense of others.”
Both Jessica McCawley of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Randy Pausina of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries called for state oversight of the red snapper in the Gulf and gave examples of innovative new data collection strategies they have begun to implement. “States know their needs best,” said McCawley. “What works for Florida doesn’t work for Louisiana,” added Pausina. “Each state can develop a plan that fits their needs.”
“I have no problem with the states,” said Crabtree at the height of a spirited Q&A with reporters in the room. “They play a huge role. We all work together.”
Can Revamped Fisheries Law Make Washington Work for Recreational Anglers?
Over lunch, two leading fisheries policy experts discussed the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the principal law overseeing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters. It was first passed in 1976—or, as speaker Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation, noted—about the time Steve Jobs was launching Apple. His point was that the world has changed greatly in the past four decades. “But in the last 40 years, there hasn’t been a lot of change in legislative oversight of saltwater fishing,” he said. “We think the next reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act is our time. This is the time the $70-billion recreational fishing industry deserves the attention of Congress.”
Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association, added that while Sen. Rubio has been a champion for fisheries and has declared his bid for the presidency, Magnuson-Stevens probably won’t be a topic of the first debate in a few weeks. “I don’t think marine fisheries will have a lot of influence in this presidential race,” said Leonard.
What a Few Billion Dollars Could Buy in Gulf Coast Restoration Projects
Pollster Karoline Richardson McGrail of Public Opinion Strategies kicked off this session with the results of an exclusive poll conducted on behalf of TRCP and the Nature Conservancy. Gulf residents overwhelming supported using the fines resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster on Gulf restoration and conservation projects. While 68 percent supported restoration, according to McGrail, only 17 percent favored using the funds for construction of roads, convention centers, school buildings, and other projects on the Gulf Coast.
Kelly Samek of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission explained how she’s helping to divert funds, like the BP spill settlement dollars, to useful restoration projects. “I match needs to dollars,” she said. “There’s a lot of money coming in from a lot of different places.” She cited recent restoration projects at Escribano Point, Fla., near the border of Alabama, as a successful use of funds to restore coastline.
Ted Venker, Conservation Director for the Coastal Conservation Association, discussed the years of work and fundraising it took to open the Cedar Bayou on Texas’s Gulf Coast, one of the state’s iconic fish passes connecting the Gulf with important wildlife estuaries. “There are hundreds of projects like this around the country that can be unlocked” with money from the BP multi-billion-dollar settlement, he said.
Keep checking the TRCP’s website as we share stories from our media attendees and other results from the summit. And if you’re interested in joining us next year, reach out to Kristyn Brady at email@example.com.
A new poll completed by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Nature Conservancy shows that Gulf Coast voters remain very concerned about the impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and overwhelmingly support using the fines resulting from the oil spill on Gulf restoration and conservation projects. More than three in five voters (61 percent) say that the “after-effects of the BP oil spill on natural areas and wildlife along the Gulf Coast” are an “extremely” or “very serious” problem for the region. That figure is up from 57 percent in 2013 and ranks among the top concerns of the region: the economy (67 percent), education (66 percent), and crime (62 percent).
“This poll reveals continued strong concern by the people of the Gulf region for the health of the Gulf of Mexico and the strong belief by a broad cross-section of the population that funds from the recently announced settlement with BP should be invested in restoring and conserving the natural features that make the Gulf such a beautiful, biologically rich, and productive place,” said Robert Bendick, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program.
Nearly seven in ten (68 percent) voters said RESTORE Act funds “should be used mainly for restoration of our beaches, wildlife habitat, coastal areas, rivers and other waters that affect the Gulf Coast.” Just 17 percent preferred that funds “be used mainly for construction of roads, convention centers, school buildings, and other projects on the Gulf Coast.” Republicans (68 percent) were even more likely than Democrats (58 percent) to prioritize restoration projects over construction. More than a third of the residents polled said that they’ve purchased a license to hunt or fish in the last three years, and these sportsmen were also more likely to back conservation projects.
“The economy and culture of the Gulf Coast are absolutely dependent upon access to high-quality fishing and other recreational activities,” said Whit Fosburgh, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s president and CEO. “Gulf residents recognize the significance of this opportunity to repair the direct damage from the oil spill, as well as long-term threats to the quality of the entire ecosystem, using fines from the 2010 disaster. Investing in the Gulf’s fisheries, wildlife, beaches, and waters is not choosing between the ecosystem and the economy. The ecosystem is the economy.”
The bipartisan research team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) partnered to complete this survey of registered voters along the Gulf Coast. The results show little change from a similar survey completed in 2013, illustrating that voters place a lasting value on the health of the Gulf as contributing to the region’s economy and culture.
The poll will be presented in detail today at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s annual Saltwater Media Summit, a gathering of journalists to discuss the most timely conservation policy issues impacting saltwater fishing. This year, the event takes place at ICAST, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, where TRCP has invited science and policy experts to discuss red snapper management and harvest collection, reauthorization of the country’s major fisheries conservation law, and priority projects for Gulf Coast habitat restoration in the wake of an $18.7-billion settlement from BP. Notable speakers include Dr. Roy Crabtree of NOAA Fisheries and representatives of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, and Coastal Conservation Association.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More