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Lawmakers have undone a 2017 rule-change that was widely criticized by hunters and anglers concerned about the threat of public land transfer or disposal
This week, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership encouraged House lawmakers to reverse a 2017 measure that made it easier to transfer or sell off public lands.
“Considering the benefits they provide to local communities and the nation—including outdoor recreation opportunities, clean water, and abundant wildlife habitat—America’s public lands continue to increase in value,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Congress should not be in the business of finding new ways to get rid of our public lands, and we applaud measures proposed by House lawmakers that recognize public lands are national assets, worthy of conservation.”
In its first day in session, the House of the 116th Congress passed a rules package that did not include language widely criticized by hunters and anglers last Congress.
The original rule-change—made by a 40-vote margin on the first day of the 115th Congress—overturned a requirement under Congressional Budget Office accounting rules to offset the cost of any transfer of federal land that generated revenue for the U.S. Treasury, whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing, or other activities.
In other words, for the past two years, public lands—even those producing billions in revenue for the federal government—had no official value and thus were vulnerable in terms of possible transfer to the states. House rules passed on Thursday did not carry this provision forward.
Once again, if lawmakers want to give federal land to a state or local government or tribe, they have to account for that loss of revenue.
“This indicates that public lands are on firmer footing in the 116th Congress,” says Fosburgh. “We encourage all our lawmakers to restore or create policies that will help keep public lands in the public’s hands.”
This story was updated on January 4, 2019.
The differences between recreational and commercial fishing are finally recognized by law
The recreational fishing and boating community is celebrating the enactment of the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018, or the Modern Fish Act, which was signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2018. The Modern Fish Act finally recognizes, in federal law, the differences between recreational and commercial fishing and adds more appropriate management tools for policymakers to use in managing federal recreational fisheries.
“Millions of American families take part in saltwater recreational fishing and boating activities and support multi-billion dollar industries that generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in our country,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “Today, we are thankful for this important milestone for federal fisheries management and marine conservation, and we look forward to continuing to improve public access to our nation’s healthy fisheries.”
The Modern Fish Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Garret Graves (R-La.), enjoyed strong bipartisan support from a long list of cosponsors representing coastal and non-coastal states alike. On December 17, the Senate unanimously passed the Modern Fish Act (S. 1520) followed by overwhelming approval in the House (350-11) on December 19.
“This is historic for the recreational boating and fishing community, capping years of hard work to responsibly modernize recreational saltwater fisheries management,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “The Modern Fish Act is a critical first-step solution towards establishing a framework for expanding access to recreational saltwater fishing, while ensuring conservation and sustainability remain top priorities in fisheries management. We thank President Trump and Congress for making the Modern Fish Act the law of the land and look forward to working with them in the coming years to advance polices that protect and promote recreational saltwater fishing.”
“The recreational fishing industry is grateful to see this legislation enacted,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, as well as NOAA Fisheries and the regional fishery management councils, to improve the management and conservation of our marine fisheries.”
“The Modern Fish Act signed by the President provides an opportunity for significant, positive change on behalf of millions of recreational anglers who enjoy fishing in federal waters,” said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “We look forward to working with NOAA Fisheries, the regional fishery management councils and the states to fully implement the provisions of the bill and improve federal fisheries management for America’s saltwater anglers.”
“CCA is proud to be a part of this important coalition, and we are grateful to our champions in Congress who stood by us during the intense, sometimes contentious negotiations on this legislation,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “There is still work to be done, but this is a valuable first step. We are hopeful this opens the door to an ongoing discussion of tools and processes that can be developed to better manage recreational fisheries in federal waters in all regions of the United States.”
“This bill becoming law is the most significant step forward in federal recreational saltwater fishing management in the forty-plus years of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” said Whit Fosburgh, president of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Recreational fishermen, conservationists and businesses united around a set of principles and worked together to get this bill passed and we will continue to work together on priorities like forage fish management and improving data collection in the future.”
The recreational fishing and boating community would like to thank the sponsors of the Modern Fish Act, Senator Wicker and Congressman Graves, who led this bipartisan effort in the 115th Congress to improve federal fisheries management for America’s 11 million saltwater anglers. We also appreciate the support of Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Congressmen Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), and Austin Scott (R-Ga.).
The Modern Fish Act will provide more stability and better access for anglers by:
The coalition of groups supporting the Modern Fish Act includes American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, The Billfish Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
There is much to do in 2019 as threats to our traditions and unmet opportunities remain
This past year has been chock-full of conservation challenges, and it’s worth celebrating some of the successes we enjoyed along the way. Here’s a quick rundown of 2018’s big wins for fish and wildlife, and what they mean for hunters and anglers across this country.
Our partnership with the digital-mapping company onX resulted in the groundbreaking (and headline-grabbing) conclusion that 9.52 million acres of our public lands in the West remain landlocked and inaccessible without the permission of adjacent private landowners. This study not only highlighted to policymakers a problem of which many sportsmen and women are already aware, it opened new conversations about what can be done to address this issue and improve public land access systematically across the country.
Throughout 2018, we fought back against attempts to roll back the policies that keep our woods and waters full of fish and game. Twice this year we joined our partners to defeat riders attached to defense spending and appropriations bills that would have underhandedly dismantled plans for sage grouse conservation and Clean Water Act protections for headwaters and upland streams.
We also joined with Western governors and partner groups to push back against the administration’s attempts to erode key protections for sage grouse during the revision process for the BLM’s 2015 plans. While aspects of these recently released plans are weaker, their underlying frameworks remain intact, and the TRCP believes that the outcome of this process could have been much worse.
And the TRCP continues to resist the administration’s attempt to undermine the Clean Water Act headwaters and wetlands rule through the EPA’s regulatory process. This fight remains ongoing, and we intend to see it through.
Holding the line on these critical issues will ensure that hunters and anglers hard-won gains for conservation won’t be negated after the fact by political maneuvering.
This October, the Water Resources Development Act passed into law, in part due to strong support from the TRCP and our partners. This law provides for the restoration of important habitats in the Everglades and Lower Mississippi River Basin, authorizes funding for two critical projects that will improve water quality throughout south Florida, and supports research on preventing the spread of invasive species like Asian carp and zebra mussels.
The benefits to these projects are many, and will improve fishing opportunities not only in Florida, which boasts a $2.9-billion recreational angling industry, but also in places like the Great Lakes and Mississippi River system.
It’s no secret that wildfire season continues to grow longer, and the fires themselves more intense. Among the many consequences of this trend is that our public land managers are spending an ever-growing share of their budget fighting wildland fires, and resources are drained from other important aspects of their work.
Early this year, the TRCP and our partners helped to address this issue through the inclusion of new provisions in the 2018 spending package. For the first time, the Forest Service will be able to use natural disaster funding—rather than money borrowed from other programs within the agency—when firefighting costs exceed the appropriated funds. Secondly, the Forest Service will also now have an additional $165 million annually to work on the active management and restoration of forest habitat.
As a result, our national forests will offer better hunting and fishing experiences for all Americans through enhanced access, management, and habitat.
Believe it or not, recreational fishing had not been recognized as an important consideration by federal fisheries managers until the passage of this year’s Modern Fish Act, which was supported by the TRCP and a long list of its marine fisheries partners. This law will allow federal managers to use management tools more appropriate for recreational fishing than commercial fishing, improve the collection of recreational harvest data, and better understand how our marine fisheries are used by a variety of users.
Thanks to the Modern Fish Act, saltwater anglers will enjoy improved access to the species they chase and greater stability in the resource.
Every five years, the drafting of a new Farm Bill holds enormous implications for wildlife and sportsmen’s access, and we were proud to help spearhead a strong partnership to see that this year’s law provided robust funding for private land conservation.
In addition to securing more than $5 billion in annual funding (i.e., full funding for the conservation title), the 2018 Farm Bill saw a $200 million annual increase in funding for a critical wetland easement program, a boost of 3 million acres for the Conservation Reserve Program, a doubling of the funding dedicated to wildlife habitat under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and $50 million in funding for a critical hunter and angler access program.
All told, these provisions mean that sportsmen and women will find more walk-in access, better habitat, healthier wildlife populations, and increased opportunities on working farms and ranches across our nation.
This year the TRCP worked across the West to protect big game migration corridors and winter range from incompatible development. And our efforts to protect these important seasonal habitats are only just beginning. We intend to see that Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3362 – a great policy issued to recognize the value of migration corridors – is implemented in a meaningful way, and in 2019 we hope to expand on this critical work. Doing so will ensure that the West’s antelope, elk, and mule deer herds will continue to sustain our hunting traditions for generations to come.
Thanks for your support in 2018, and let’s keep it up in the coming year!
Photo courtesy: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington
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