This week, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Fisheries Program Director Chris Horton joined fellow members of the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council for their first meeting of the year to discuss a variety of issues important to the angling and boating community.
The Council, which consists of conservation and business leaders from across the country, advises the Secretary of the Interior and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on recreational angling and boating issues.
Margaret Everson, Principal Deputy Director Exercising the Authority of the Director as well as Interior Secretary David Bernhardt joined the Council meeting to discuss efforts the USFWS and Department of the Interior, as a whole, have taken to enhance hunting and fishing access on National Wildlife Refuges and at National Fish Hatchery System properties around the country.
“We really appreciated the Secretary’s time, very thoughtful questions and overall in-depth conversation with the Council,” said Horton. “This Council has been very effective in addressing specific policy issues within the Interior Department, as well as helping guide both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation program and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation towards measurable results that benefit anglers and boaters, the industries they support, and aquatic resource conservation across the nation.”
Right now, the most pressing action before the Council is a Congressionally-mandated review of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF). RBFF’s mission is to increase angling and boating participation, as well as conservation awareness. The group is responsible for the “60 in 60” campaign (recruiting 60 million anglers in 60 months), which has been widely successful.
The Council identified an issue with permitting hurdles for boating access area construction and enhancements. Currently, various permits required from federal agencies, such as the Corps of Engineers and National Marine Fisheries Service, can take 5-10 years to complete for upgrades to existing facilities, and 10-15 years for new facilities. These permitting hurdles present significant, and often unnecessary, delays for public boating access. The Council is pursuing avenues to bring the various federal agencies to the table and pursue more streamlined-permitting processes.
Another issue discussed during the Council meeting included conflicts between the ever-expanding paddlecraft users and motorized boaters. While many non-motorized kayakers, canoers and paddle boarders are anglers and do contribute to the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF), which funds boat ramp construction through purchases of fishing tackle, the non-angling paddlecraft users do not contribute to any boating access funding through the American System of Conservation Funding. The increasing use and congestion at public boating access areas built for motorized boats with SFRBTF dollars, along with a growing demand to construct non-motorized access on many bodies of water around the country, has highlighted the need to determine the extent of the conflicts and whether the non-motorized boating industry should be contributing to boating access and natural resource conservation through a similar excise tax to the SFRBTF.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (11.51%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (10.07%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (64.03%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (14.39%)