The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is supporting the sportsmen’s community by including language on ‘fish, elephants and fire’ in the FY 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill. Released on Tuesday, July 8, the bill is on schedule to be marked up on July 15.
Part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) funding is prioritized to prevent the closures of fish hatcheries, an issue that the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and other organizations from the Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council (SFBPC) have recently worked on. On July 10, the SFBPC sent a letter to Secretary Sally Jewell on the topic of fish hatcheries, asking to “keep these recreational propagation programs operating in FY ’15 as required by the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act of 1934.” The letter also suggests that the Secretary work with the SFBPC to develop new legislation for the FWS Fisheries Program that will ensure the long-term viability of the National Fish Hatchery System.
The concern over fish hatchery closures has been formally addressed on several occasions in the last year as well. On September 11, 2013, a letter was sent to the Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell from nine Members of Congress; on February 24, another letter to Secretary Jewell expressed concerns in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico from seven Members of Congress; and on March 4, seven members of the Western Senate Caucus sent a letter to Director of Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe on the issue of fish hatcheries.
The Committee received testimony from a diverse group of citizens against the ban of trade and transport of products containing ivory that have legally been in the United States for years. These products include pistol grips, shotgun beads, knife handles, family heirlooms passed down for generations, and rare musical instruments. As summarized in the report: while protecting elephants and taking action against poaching is favorable to all, the Service’s regulatory actions go too far when penalizing innocent U.S. citizens rather than focusing on the heart of the problem.
Recently, two bills were introduced (H.R. 5052 and S. 2587) which would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to protect and conserve species and the lawful possession of certain ivory in the United States. Representative Steve Daines (MT), sponsor of H.R. 5052, issued a press release on July 11 discussing the bill, and quoting CSF President Jeff Crane: “American hunters are the first and original conservationists and do more to conserve African elephants than anyone. We support this common sense legislation that allows Americans to keep our lawfully obtained ivory without fear of being deemed instant criminals by the federal government.”
The Appropriations bill includes funds specifically for wildfire suppression, including the FLAME Wildfire Suppression Fund, which fully funds 10-year average wildfire suppression costs. This program is necessary to ensure funding for wildfire damages without taking from non-fire programs, which impact outdoor recreation and habitat management on public lands. On June 27, the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, of which CSF President Jeff Crane is a member, sent a letter to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, asking for the inclusion of wildfire suppression funding in the Appropriations bill.
On Wednesday, July 16, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and partners will host a Breakfast Briefing on Capitol Hill to present details on the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (H.R. 3992 and S. 1875).
In addition to these important issues, the House Appropriations bill also directs the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management not to use funds to prohibit access to federal lands for hunting, angling or recreational shooting, with the exception of temporary 30-day closure periods in cases of a public safety issues or extreme weather.
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?