Hunters And Anglers Rejoice
Funds now tabled for Gulf restoration while bill will help hunters access public lands
Two separate actions in Washington, D.C., on Thursday have the fishing and
hunting communities applauding.
Members of the Transportation Bill conference committee reached a compromise
that includes two measures, the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act and reauthorization
of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, that together, will have a
significant impact on fisheries conservation and habitat enhancement in the
Also, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved the
fiscal year 2013 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill that includes $7.5
million to expand and enhance access for hunting, fishing and recreational
shooting on U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.
The bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the Transportation Bill
reauthorization is drawing high praise from the nation’s sportfishing industry
and the broader recreational fishing community.
“The importance of this agreement to recreational fishing across the country,
and in the Gulf of Mexico region in particular, cannot be overstated,” said
American Sportfishing Association (ASA) Vice President Gordon Robertson. “We are
extremely grateful that the members of the conference committee were able to
reach a compromise that will benefit our nation’s fisheries resources and the
anglers who enjoy them for years to come.”
The conference report for the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century
Act, commonly known as the Highway Transportation Bill, includes
nearly-identical language to the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act as reported out of
the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in September, 2011.
The bill directs 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties charged to BP as
a result of the April 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the restoration of
the Gulf Coast environment and economy. Without Congressional action, these
penalties, which are estimated to be between $5.4 and $21.1 billion, would go
into the general treasury instead of toward Gulf recovery.
The majority of these funds will be distributed to the five Gulf Coast states
and the newly established Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council for economic
and environmental restoration projects throughout the Gulf of Mexico region,
such as wetlands restoration, construction of boat ramps and tourism
Of particular importance to fisheries management, the RESTORE Act also
establishes a program that will provide funding for needed fisheries stock
assessments and data collection in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Many Members of Congress played significant roles in supporting the RESTORE
Act, but ASA particularly thanks the leadership of Senators Landrieu (D-La.),
Nelson (D-Fla.) and Shelby (R-Ala.) and Representative Scalise (R-La.) for
seeing this through to the finish,” said Robertson. “Without their dedicated
efforts to ensure that the RESTORE Act remained in the Transportation Bill, it
could have easily been left out.”
A separate section of the Transportation Bill reauthorizes the Sport Fish
Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, commonly known as the Wallop-Breaux Act,
which directs hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state fish and
wildlife agencies' fishing and boating programs.
Funds for this important program are collected largely from the federal
manufacturers excise taxes on fishing equipment and the motorboat fuel tax. The
program had to be authorized as part of the Transportation Bill in order to
capture the revenue from that part of the federal fuel tax attributable to motor
boat and small engine use.
“Through the Sport Fish Restoration program, the sportfishing industry
provides the backbone of fisheries management and conservation funding in this
country,” Robertson said. “In these lean fiscal times, all federal programs are
at risk, but ASA and our partners have diligently worked to ensure that the
success and vitality of this program will remain secure.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) along
with partner organizations such as the Boone and Crockett Club, NRA, the
Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and others have worked on provision with
the Appropriations Committee. If included in the final appropriations measure,
the funding will allow the Forest Service and BLM to acquire rights-of-way and
other land interests from willing-seller landowners to open access to existing
federal lands for hunting and fishing where it is closed or significantly
"The biggest challenge facing hunters and shooters is diminishing access to
public lands. This important appropriations provision addresses this challenge
head-on, and the NSSF is deeply grateful to Appropriations Committee Chairman
Harold Rogers and Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson for championing
this cause," said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of
NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting
Boone and Crockett Club Chairman Bob Model praised Chairman Simpson for "his
longstanding and deep commitment to enhancing hunting opportunities on our
For the 32 million American hunters, anglers and recreational shooters,
federal public lands are increasingly vital to their participation in outdoor
sports. Nearly half of all hunters, for example, pursue their passion on public
lands. Reduced access is repeatedly cited as the primary reason that hunters,
anglers and recreational shooters stop participating in these sports.
A 2004 report to the House Committee on Appropriations concluded that more
than 35 million acres of BLM and Forest Service land have inadequate access.
Specifically, nearly 2 million acres (or 10 percent) of Forest Service lands in
Montana and 8.4 million acres (or 29 percent) of BLM lands in the
Montana/Dakotas region were identified as having inadequate access.
Sportsmen and women make important contributions to both wildlife
conservation and the nation's economy. The hunting and shooting sports industry
creates 210,000 jobs nationwide, generating an economic benefit of nearly $32
"If ultimately appropriated, this public-access funding will serve as another
weapon in our arsenal as we continue to work on behalf of our nation's hunting
and shooting heritage," Keane said.
On another front, the NSSF has filed a motion to intervene in the frivolous
lawsuit brought by the anti-hunting Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and
six other organizations to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to
ban traditional ammunition containing lead components.
By intervening in the case, NSSF seeks to ensure that the interests of the
firearms and ammunition industry are protected and to ensure that hunters and
target shooters still will be able to select the ammunition of their choice.
"A ban on traditional ammunition would have devastating consequences for our
industry, hunters, target shooters and all firearm owners, and wildlife
conservation funding," Keane said.
The EPA already has twice denied petitions filed by CBD to ban traditional
ammunition, noting correctly that it does not have the legal authority to
regulate traditional ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
The EPA denied the CBD's petition earlier this year. CBD's original petition was
rejected by the EPA in August of 2010.