From time to time, there are programs that should be supported by anyone who is interested in making sure that we have aquatic resources for generations to come. This is not a recreational versus commercial issue. It is not another personal bitch session about something I don’t happen to like. It is, plain and simple, something that we all need to urge our congressional delegates to get done.
Within the last few weeks, legislation was introduced to strengthen a program that has been in place for almost a decade and has contributed to river rehabilitations, reservoir enhancements, salt-marsh protection efforts and other fishery conservation projects across the country. The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, S. 2080, was recently introduced by Sens. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
This proposed legislation points out the value of fully functioning habitat: “fish habitats (including wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and coastal and marine habitats) perform numerous valuable environmental functions that sustain environmental, social, and cultural values, including recycling nutrients, purifying water, attenuating floods, augmenting and maintaining stream flows, recharging ground water, acting as primary producers in the food chain and providing essential and significant habitat for plants, fish, wildlife and other dependent species.” Wow, that goes a long way toward outlining all the benefits of habitat and a healthy environment. To get Congress to support that kind of language will be a real benefit in the long run.
But also beneficial to the recreational fishing industry is the language that describes the value of today’s recreational fishing industry in direct connection to healthy habitat: “the extensive and diverse fish habitat resources of the United States, providing
- recreation for 60 million anglers;
- more than 828,000 jobs and approximately $115 billion in economic impact each year relating to recreational fishing; and
- approximately 575,000 jobs and an additional $36 billion in economic impact each year relating to commercial fishing.”
Pinch me, dude. I must be freaking dreaming! That is the kind of recognition that the recreational fishing industry has been missing since, well, forever.
The main thrust of this bill is to provide a framework for maintaining and restoring fish habitats to sustain populations of fish. The concept is that the federal government can help achieve this goal by supporting partnerships between local citizens, Indian tribes, Alaska native organizations, and federal, state and tribal agencies. We know that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries already play important parts in this area, but this legislation would be a blueprint to pull in all the other agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the National Park Service, to mention a few. The intent of this legislation is to encourage partnerships among public agencies and other interested parties consistent with the mission and goals of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.
I fully recognize that legislation should not be necessary to have federal agencies work together on issues that benefit our natural resources and the country’s citizens. However, having it in writing just makes it work a whole lot better.
This will not pass without your support, so take just a few minutes and let your congressional delegates know that you want them to support it.
Do it now and we’ll all benefit for many years to come.
Editor’s note: You might want to check out NOAA’s Response and Restoration Blog