January 12, 2017

California: Water Bill Receives Mixed Reaction from Sportsmen’s Community

In the final weeks of 2016, President Obama signed into law the “Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act” – a bill aimed at restoring and conserving aquatic habitat while rebuilding the nation’s strained water management infrastructure.

The act contains a wide array of provisions supported by the sportsmen’s community, including funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, reauthorization of the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, and a $1.95 billion authorization for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).

While the Act contains many elements that have been lauded by conservation groups, a last-minute provision in the bill calls for federal and state conservation officials to “remove, reduce or control the effects” of several non-native species in the California Delta. Among the 10 species listed are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and striped bass – all vital to California’s world-class sport fisheries. The provision was added in an attempt to bolster California’s flagging salmon population, following unsubstantiated claims that non-native sportfish are a primary source of declining salmon populations – though no scientific evidence to date has shown that to be the case. Through the American System of Conservation Funding, sportfishing in California – including in the Delta – is a vital source of funding for wildlife management and conservation in the state.

In 2016, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and other water and agriculture interests petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to remove bag and length limits on striped bass and black bass in the Delta. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation joined numerous conservation groups in opposing the measure and the petition was subsequently withdrawn.

Each year, California’s more than 1.6 million anglers spend over $2.3 billion, supporting close to 36,000 jobs and generating over $334 million in state and local taxes.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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