Congress cements the future of important programs and funding sources that benefit deer, fish, waterfowl, and watershed restoration efforts
In a flurry of votes under suspension of the rules today, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that will help improve fish habitat, restore wetlands, boost chronic wasting disease research, invest in clean water solutions, and prevent bycatch fatalities of important sportfish species.
The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (S. 3051) reauthorizes and establishes important conservation programs and funding sources that would benefit deer, waterfowl, fish, and all species in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.
“Passage of the ACE Act will not only benefit deer, ducks, fish, and our water quality, but it will also create jobs in conservation and help to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities for millions of Americans just when we need it most,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen and women are grateful to both Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate and House for their support of and commitment to the passage of this critical legislation. It secures the future of essential conservation programs and funding sources that hunters and anglers have prioritized for years.”
The Senate passed companion legislation earlier this month, and the bill will go directly to the president’s desk now that it has cleared the House. The TRCP asked sportsmen and women to contact lawmakers in support of the following provisions and swift passage:
- Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act at $60 million annually for the next five years. NAWCA has improved more than 30 million acres of wetlands by leveraging a 3-to-1 match of private to federal funds.
- Establishing a task force to address the spread of chronic wasting disease and ensure states have a coordinated plan to research, test, and respond to CWD.
- Codifying and securing future funding for the National Fish Habitat Partnership, which has overseen more than 840 projects to benefit fish habitat and populations.
- Boosting restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay by reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program at $90 million through FY2025 and investing in clean water efforts recommended by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia.
- Supporting fishing opportunities in the Great Lakes by authorizing and providing $15 million in annual funding for coordinated research and monitoring of binational fisheries within the Great Lakes Basin.
These provisions help to create conservation jobs that put Americans back to work during this COVID-related economic downturn, which is a top priority of the TRCP this year and looking ahead.
In a separate vote, the House also advanced the Direct Enhancement of Snapper Conservation and the Economy through Novel Devices, or DESCEND, Act. This legislation requires anyone fishing for reef fish—commercially or recreationally—in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico to possess a descending device or venting tool to prevent the effects of barotrauma on released fish and reduce the mortality rate of prized species such as snapper and grouper.
“Support for the DESCEND Act is a no-brainer, because the tools it would require provide one of the best ways to ensure the survival of reef fish that are caught and released, helping keep stocks healthy and improving fish conservation,” says Chris Macaluso, director of marine fisheries for the TRCP. “We applaud Congressmen Garrett Graves, Steven Palazzo, Jared Huffman, and their colleagues in the House for moving this bill forward to improve fisheries management, resource conservation, and the outdoor recreation economy.”
The DESCEND Act has been championed by the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the TRCP. Learn more here.