A Big Year for Legislation Impacting Anglers

by Lew Carpenter, National Wildlife Federation

During simpler times some of my biggest concerns as an angler were:
* Is my line fresh and nick free?
* Are my hooks sharp?
* Is the water moving?
* What baitfish are around?
* Who will go fishing with me?

And, as important as these “issues” are and always have been, I am these days more painfully aware of how federal legislation can impact the habitat and sport that I love. Legislation is boring. It’s complicated. And it involves…politics. But recreational fishing in America is better for it. Laws like Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act (1950) and the Clean Water Act (1972) have improved water quality and fish habitat nationwide for decades.

Here’s a bit of what Congress has on tap for the rest of the year:

  • Recovering America’s Wildlife Act – This bill would send the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries $15 million a year to help nearly 350 at-risk species – improving habitat used by fish and game along the way. Every major sporting group in the country is backing this bill and it just passed out of the House on a bipartisan basis. Now all eyes are on the Senate –ask your Senators to support this commonsense, cost-effective bill here.
  • America’s Outdoor Recreation Act – This is a package of provisions aimed at improving outdoor recreation opportunities, including fishing, on federal lands by doing things like streamlining the permitting processes for guides, improving broadband, etc. Critically, the bill will stop the spread of invasive species by increasing inspections and decontamination of boats entering and leaving Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service sites in western states.
  • Water Resources Development Act – The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is how Congress manages the activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In this update of the bill, Louisiana anglers and coastal residents should insist that Congress provide the full funding for restoring the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) navigation channel, which the Army Corps built and then badly mismanaged for decades. During Hurricane Katrina, the MRGO funneled storm surge deep into the city, causing many of the deaths. Since the federal government was responsible for the damage, it is only fair the federal government pay to restore the area, without requiring a state match.

    Furthermore, Congress should use this update to WRDA to require the Corps to listen to the biologists and experts at USFWS – instead of ignoring their recommendations as the Corps often does now. If passed, this will help prevent the Corps from creating disasters like the MRGO in the future.

At the end of the day – and as dull as it may seem – anglers and habitat in the Gulf benefit from legislation. It keeps us on the water, in the places that we love, and ensures good habitat and great access are ours today, and there for the generations of tomorrow.