Vanishing Paradise Hails Senate Passage of RESTORE Act on Transportation Bill

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Posted by National Wildlife Federation

Vote Follows Recent House Approval of Efforts to Dedicate BP Fines to Gulf Restoration-

The coalition of more than 700 national state and local hunting and fishing organizations and businesses that is Vanishing Paradise commended the Senate today for passing the Surface Transportation Bill with the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act included as an amendment. The RESTORE Act is historic legislation that passed the full Senate last week with support from 76 senators, including all Democrats and half of the Senate’s Republicans. The Senate’s approval of the RESTORE Act follows the House’s recent approval of an amendment by the same name.

“Especially in this day and age, we thank the bipartisan Senate leadership and the overwhelming number of Senators from both sides of the aisle who have brought the RESTORE Act so far,” said Land Tawney, National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership. “A thunderous chorus of duck and goose wing beats and the tails of redfish can be heard spurring us on! Coupling the RESTORE Act with two years of significant funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund—a measure that ensures public access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities across America—is a great day for anyone who hunts or fishes.”

“This is the culmination of more than three years of a national effort by hunters and anglers to restore the Gulf. An awe-inspiring number of individuals, organizations and businesses have stepped up over the past year to voice strong support for restoring the Mississippi River Delta,” Tawney continued. “This issue isn’t new to American sportsmen and women—this is our conservation issue for our time.”

The RESTORE Act has been an important initiative in conservation legislation for hunters and anglers from across the country due to the 10 million migratory waterfowl that winter or stopover on the Mississippi River Delta and the hugely significant commercial and recreational fishery the Gulf produces. The amendment comes at a crucial time for an ecosystem that faced extreme degradation before the oil spill, which only added insult to injury. Although much of the visible oil is gone, the region remains in jeopardy as food supplies and habitats are still recovering from the impacts of oil—and may face impacts from the spill for decades.

“This move helps Louisiana’s coast, its wildlife and fisheries and its people and communities take a big step forward in efforts to repair not only damages from the oil spill but also to begin addressing the dire coastal land loss that has plagued our state for the last 80 years,” said Louisiana Wildlife Federation’s Coastal Outreach Coordinator Chris Macaluso. “Louisianans have watched our coast vanish before our eyes for nearly a century, including losing some of the world’s best wildlife and fisheries habitat. Now that the Senate has shown a commitment to addressing this much-needed restoration, Louisiana has hope that it can start putting the resources needed toward the projects that will help save what we have left and hopefully turn land lost into habitat gained in the coming decades.”

Sportsmen and advocates from outside the Gulf are also praising the devotion of resources to reviving the Gulf ecosystem.

“With our state’s location in the Mississippi Flyway, Illinois waterfowl depend heavily on the Gulf Coast as a wintering ground,” said Mike Galloway of Hard Core Brands. “Restoring the Gulf means providing our waterfowl with healthy habitat—and that’s something Illinois sportsmen and women can support. Now we look forward to Congress passing, and the President signing into law, the final transportation bill with the RESTORE Act.”

“The Senate’s approval of this measure to use money from the oil spill to restore the Gulf resonates with hunters and anglers across the nation,” said Jim Martin, director of the Berkley Conservation Institute. “The Gulf Coast supports a world-class fresh- and saltwater fishery vital to our business and outdoor heritage, so it’s a region that matters.”

“Using money from the oil spill to restore the Gulf makes sense to anglers and hunters even in places like Nebraska and Iowa,” said Teeg Stouffer, Executive Director at Recycled Fish. “Many of our nation’s waterfowl, including the sandhill cranes that are famous in Nebraska, spend part of their lives on the Gulf Coast. Anglers around the world have watched the BASSMASTER Classic—the Superbowl of fishing—play out on the stage that the delta presents, so it’s a region that matters to fishermen and women everywhere.”

The legislation will ensure that penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster are used to rebuild the economies of Gulf Coast communities that were impacted by the spill and to restore the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, barrier islands, dunes, coastal wetlands, that are the foundation of the Gulf Coast economy.

A nationwide poll of 1,006 likely general election voters conducted by the Democratic firm, Lake Research Partners, and the GOP firm, Bellwether Research and Consulting, showed that the vast majority of U.S. voters (84 percent) believe the Gulf Coast—including the Mississippi River Delta—impacts the nation’s economy. Nearly two-thirds of those voters (63 percent) believe this region impacts the economy in their part of the country.

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Emily Guidry Schatzel