Kim Jensen

January 18, 2019

Four Questions Sportsmen Need the Next EPA Chief to Answer

As Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler is considered for the top job at EPA, hunters and anglers want a clear commitment to clean water and habitat

There is no question that the next chief of the Environmental Protection Agency will have an outsize impact on our clean water resources and hunting and fishing opportunities for years to come. Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the agency and Trump’s nominee for the permanent position, faced tough questions from senators in a confirmation hearing this week—hunters and anglers have a few more.

Will he give sportsmen and women, the original conservationists, a seat at the table?

Hunters and anglers experience the direct and downstream impacts of nutrient runoff, abandoned mines, and wetlands loss firsthand, and we have historically played a central role in the responsible conservation of America’s water, wildlife, and lands. We need to know if Wheeler will commit to including the voices of sportsmen and women in policy decisions.

Will he give the public ample opportunity to speak out for clean water?

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Water Rule and are giving the public 60 days to comment. Before the 2015 rule was finalized, comments were collected for 200 days. With Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and ephemeral streams—including many headwaters—on the line, we’re asking if Wheeler will extend the comment period so more hunters and anglers can provide feedback.

How hard will he work to help Americans understand what the new rule does?

Right now, there is only one in-person listening session planned for the public to hear from the EPA and Army Corps on the Clean Water Rule. This is such an important part of the democratic process, and in-person interaction helps to put a human face on the concerns of sportsmen and women. Will Wheeler commit to holding more listening sessions so that Americans can tell their stories and understand the true impacts of the rule?

How can we work together to improve, rather than weaken, habitat?

The agencies have proposed eliminating Clean Water Act protections for ephemeral streams and isolated wetlands in the Clean Water Rule replacement. These waters and wetlands provide important habitat for juvenile fish and nesting migratory birds. Perhaps the most critical question is simple: How does Wheeler intend to conserve these habitats that support healthy fish and wildlife populations, hunting and fishing opportunities, and America’s outdoor recreation economy?

 

Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program

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January 1, 2019

President Trump Signs the Modern Fish Act

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:

  • Providing authority and direction to NOAA Fisheries to apply additional management tools more appropriate for recreational fishing, many of which are successfully implemented by state fisheries agencies (e.g., extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities);
  • Improving recreational harvest data collection by requiring federal managers to explore other data sources that have tremendous potential to improve the accuracy and timeliness of harvest estimates, such as state-driven programs and electronic reporting (e.g., through smartphone apps);
  • Requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the process of mixed-use fishery allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils and report findings to Congress within one year of enactment of the Modern Fish Act, and
  • Requiring the National Academies of Sciences to complete a study and provide recommendations within two years of the enactment of the Modern Fish Act on limited access privilege programs (catch shares) including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program. This study excludes the Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Councils.

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.

Randall Williams

December 21, 2018

TRCP Makes Gains in 2018 for Habitat, Access, and Hunting and Fishing

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.

Shining a Light on Landlocked Lands

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.

Standing Our Ground for Conservation and Access

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.

A Win for Water

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.

A Funding Fix for Fire Season

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.

Anglers Get Their Due

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.

A Farm Bill We Can Celebrate

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.

Safeguarding Seasonal Habitat

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

Randall Williams

December 19, 2018

U.S. House Passes Modern Fish Act

First-ever sportfishing-focused legislation to pass Congress heads to President’s desk

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S.1520, the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (Modern Fish Act). Today’s vote was the final step toward sending the landmark legislation to the President’s desk after it passed the Senate on December 17.

“The Modern Fish Act is the most significant update to America’s saltwater fishing regulations in more than 40 years and the recreational fishing community couldn’t be more excited,” said Johnny Morris, noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops. “On behalf of America’s 11 million saltwater anglers, we’re grateful to Speaker Ryan, the 115th Congress and all the elected leaders who came together to support and enhance recreational fishing across America.”

The priorities of the recreational fishing and boating community were identified and presented to federal policy makers in 2014 by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management in a report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” The Commission was known as the Morris-Deal Commission, named for co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group. Four years later, many of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission are found in the Modern Fish Act.

“America’s anglers and members of the recreational fishing and boating industry are among the most responsible stewards of our marine resources because healthy fisheries and the future of recreational fishing go hand-in-hand,” said Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group. “A huge thank you to our congressional leaders who answered the call of the recreational fishing community to improve the way our fisheries are managed.”

America’s 11 million saltwater anglers have a $63 billion economic impact annually and generate 440,000 jobs, including thousands of manufacturing and supply jobs in non-coastal states. Furthermore, $1.3 billion is contributed annually by anglers and boaters through excise taxes and licensing fees, most of which goes toward conservation, boating safety and infrastructure, and habitat restoration.

“It is a historic day for America’s 11 million saltwater anglers thanks Senator Roger Wicker, Congressman Garret Graves and our many champions in Congress who fought until the very end for recreational fishing to be properly recognized in federal law,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “For the first time ever, Congress is sending a sportfishing-focused bill to the President’s desk.”

The Modern Fish Act will provide more stability and better access for anglers by:

  • Providing authority and direction to NOAA Fisheries to apply additional management tools more appropriate for recreational fishing, many of which are successfully implemented by state fisheries agencies (e.g., extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities);
  • Improving recreational harvest data collection by requiring federal managers to explore other data sources that have tremendous potential to improve the accuracy and timeliness of harvest estimates, such as state-driven programs and electronic reporting (e.g., through smartphone apps);
  • Requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the process of mixed-use fishery allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils and report findings to Congress within one year of enactment of the Modern Fish Act, and
  • Requiring the National Academies of Sciences to complete a study and provide recommendations within two years of the enactment of the Modern Fish Act on limited access privilege programs (catch shares) including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program. This study excludes the Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Councils.

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.

America’s recreational fishing and boating community applauds Congress for this historic vote and looks forward to final enactment of the Modern Fish Act following the President’s signature.

Photo Credit: Kiran Koduru on Flickr

Kristyn Brady

December 17, 2018

Senate Passes Modern Fish Act

Sportfishing-focused legislation heads to House for final passage

Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (S.1520), otherwise known as the Modern Fish Act. The legislation, which would make critical updates to the oversight of federal fisheries, marks a big step forward for America’s angling community and now moves to the U.S. House for final passage.

“Today is an important day for America’s 11 million saltwater anglers thanks to the leadership of Senator Roger Wicker and a broad, bipartisan coalition of senators,” says Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “Senate passage of the Modern Fish Act proved today that marine recreational fishing is a nonpartisan issue, and anglers are closer than ever to being properly recognized in federal law.”

The Modern Fish Act, introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in July 2017, enjoyed strong support across the aisle from more than a dozen Senate cosponsors representing coastal and non-coastal states alike. In addition, a coalition of organizations representing the saltwater recreational fishing and boating community endorsed the Modern Fish Act and highlighted the importance of updating the nation’s fisheries management system to more accurately distinguish between recreational and commercial fishing.

“We applaud the U.S. Senate for approving this commonsense legislation, which will modernize our federal fisheries management system and protect recreational angling for generations to come,” says Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “The recreational boating industry – a uniquely American-made industry that contributes $39 billion in annual sales and supports 35,000 businesses – now calls on the U.S. House of Representatives to immediately take up, pass, and send the Modern Fish Act to President Trump’s desk.”

On July 11, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Modern Fish Act (H.R. 2023) as part of H.R. 200. However, differences between H.R. 200 and S.1520 require that the full House take a vote on S.1520 before it is sent to the President’s desk. America’s recreational fishing and boating community is urging the House to quickly advance the Modern Fish Act to the President’s desk before the conclusion of this Congress.

“The Senate’s passage of the Modern Fish Act demonstrates a clear recognition of the importance of saltwater recreational fishing to the nation,” says Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “This version of the Modern Fish Act helps to advance many of the collective priorities of the recreational fishing community for improving federal marine fisheries management. There are 11 million saltwater anglers in the U.S. who have a $63 billion economic impact annually and generate 440,000 jobs.”

If passed, the Modern Fish Act will provide more stability and better access for anglers by:

  • Providing authority and direction to NOAA Fisheries to apply additional management tools more appropriate for recreational fishing, many of which are successfully implemented by state fisheries agencies (e.g., extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities);
  • Improving recreational harvest data collection by requiring federal managers to explore other data sources that have tremendous potential to improve the accuracy and timeliness of harvest estimates, such as state-driven programs and electronic reporting (e.g., through smartphone apps);
  • Requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the process of mixed-use fishery allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils and report findings to Congress within one year of enactment of the Modern Fish Act, and
  • Requiring the National Academies of Sciences to complete a study and provide recommendations within two years of the enactment of the Modern Fish Act on limited access privilege programs (catch shares) including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program. This study excludes the Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Councils.

“We are proud of the extensive work that went into producing this bill and are grateful to our champions in Congress who worked to establish recreational angling as an important component in the management of our nation’s fisheries, at long last,” says Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “Thanks to this effort, the recreational angling community is better positioned than ever to address ongoing shortcomings in our nation’s fisheries laws and we look forward to continuing this work with our elected officials to ensure the proper conservation of our country’s marine resources and anglers’ access to them.”

“The Modern Fish Act is a very positive step forward for anglers and conservation,” says Whit Fosburgh, president of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It will improve fisheries data and encourage managers to think about new ways of managing fisheries to benefit both conservation and access.”

In 2014, the priorities of the recreational fishing and boating community were identified and presented to federal policy makers by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management in a report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” This diverse group made up of a variety of fisheries stakeholders is also referred to as the Morris-Deal Commission, named for co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group. Four years later, many of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission are found in the Modern Fish Act.

“Through the legislative process, the Modern Fish Act has proven to many on Capitol Hill that recreational fishing is worthy of recognition as a driving force for American jobs and the national economy — not just a sport,” says Jim Donofrio, president of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

The recreational fishing and boating community thanks Senator Wicker for leading the Modern Fish Act through the Senate. While certain provisions of the original legislation proved too difficult to enact now, many core provisions of the Modern Fish Act are found in the final bill. We urge the incoming Congress to continue working to improve the way recreational fisheries are managed at the federal level.

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

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