Improving Fisheries Habitat on a Grand Scale
Healthy waterways and robust fish populations are vital to the well-being of our society. They provide clean water and sustainable fisheries. Unfortunately, in many waters across the country, fish and the habitats on which they depend are in decline. This is of huge concern to the 40 million anglers who pursue fish recreationally and countless others who depend on them for subsistence and commerce. While there are numerous efforts underway to address declining fishery health on local scales, there is a need for conservation action on a range-wide scale for these efforts to be successful. The National Fish Habitat Partnership (Partnership) provides a national framework for protecting, restoring and enhancing fish habitats.
KeepAmericaFishing™ stresses the value of clean waterways, which provide better habitat for fish and make for better fishing. Since 1970, regulatory programs have reduced pollution and slowed the physical degradation of aquatic habitats. Thousands of river rehabilitations, reservoir enhancements, salt-marsh protection efforts and other conservation projects have been conducted across the country. Although significant gains have been made, they have not kept pace with impacts resulting from population growth and land-use changes. Given the diverse array of federal, state, tribal, local and private jurisdictions, the need has never been greater for increased action and improved coordination of fisheries conservation actions across boundaries and jurisdictions.
KeepAmericaFishing, along with other fisheries conservation groups, has actively worked for the past several years to pass legislation – the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NFHCA) – that will formally authorize and establish a funding source for the Partnership. If signed into law, the NFHCA will provide much needed funding for aquatic habitat restoration and conservation across the U.S. The Partnership represents a national investment strategy that will extend the impact of our nation’s conservation dollars, leveraging federal and privately raised funds to build regional partnerships aimed at fixing the nation’s biggest fisheries problems. This is the most comprehensive effort ever attempted to treat the causes of fish habitat decline, not just the symptoms.
The NFHCA was first introduced in the 110th Congress. Though the Senate and House bills were not heard before the Congress adjourned, they served as the foundation for re-introduction in the 111th and 112th Congresses.
The NFHCA was reintroduced in the 111th Congress as S. 1214 and H.R. 2565 by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Representative Ron Kind (D-Wis.). On December 3, 2009, American Sportfishing Association (ASA) Vice President and Partnership Board Member Gordon Robertson testified before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife in support of the Senate bill. The legislation was one of several bills that ASA and KeepAmericaFishing worked hard to get passed before the 111th Congress concluded. Despite having the bill ready for a floor vote as both a stand-alone bill and in a package with others bills, time ran out.
On June 15, 2011, Senator Lieberman reintroduced the NFHCA as S. 1201. Though there is currently no companion bill in the House of Representatives, KeepAmericaFishing continues to regularly meet with other members of the NFHCA legislative team to discuss strategy for passing this during the 112th Congress.
In March 2012, the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote interagency collaboration on the implementation of the NFHP. The agreement will streamline agency efforts and ensure that federal resources are employed in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
The NFHP has provided tools allowing Congressmen and women who have ongoing projects within their districts to coordinate site visits to these areas. These projects will highlight the collaboration between agencies and government. S.1201 was reported to the Senate by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on July 17th, 2012, and has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.