Why It Matters: For years, CSF has prioritized legislation to address the Cottonwood decision and legislation to provide more funding for coastal communities. The Committee passage of S. 2561 and the RISEE Act marks the furthest these bills have moved in the Senate as standalone efforts. Leading up to the Committee vote, CSF conducted outreach to many offices on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to express our backing for these bills and helped lead letters signed by the sporting-conservation community in strong support of both bills. CSF is excited to see these efforts help secure a successful vote in Committee.
On July 21, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (Committee) voted to pass two different bills that seek to enhance our nation’s fish and wildlife conservation efforts. Specifically, the Committee passed S. 2561, an effort to allow habitat management projects in the West to move forward by overriding the 2015 Cottonwood decision. The second CSF priority to pass the Committee was the Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies and Ecosystems, or RISEE, Act.
S. 2561 would address the problems caused by the 2015 Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service decision that has delayed and effectively halted the implementation of critical fish and wildlife habitat improvements on lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. As wildfires, climate change, and other present challenges increasingly devastate our forests, a fix to 2015 Cottonwood decision is critical to restoring the health of forests.
In 2018, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which provided a partial fix to the costly procedural hurdle imposed by Cottonwood, however the reprieve is temporary and will expire in March 2023. With the looming expiration of the partial fix, it is critical to pass S. 2561 to provide much-needed relief to our public land managers. This legislation seeks to obviate the need for federal managers to reinitiate consultation at the programmatic level when new critical habitat is designated, a new species is listed, or new information about a listed species comes to light. Plan level consultation is not needed as every major federal action is highly scrutinized at the project level, including consultation with the federal agencies responsible for overseeing the Endangered Species Act, and consultation would still take place when new forest plans are developed.
The RISEE Act would help diversify federal conservation funding by dedicating a portion of the royalties from the development of offshore wind to coastal resiliency investments and dedicated more of the existing offshore energy production revenue from the Gulf of Mexico to support regional coastal restoration and resiliency projects. The funding provided by the RISEE Act would position states where energy productions occur to facilitate critical investments in environment protections and resilient infrastructures projects in communities that are threatened by sea level rise, coastal erosion, and flooding.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation appreciates the leadership of CSC Member Senator Daines, Senator Whitehouse, and CSC Member Senator Bill Cassidy for championing their respective pieces of legislation. Both bills are necessary to address the conservation challenges facing us today, and CSF will continue to work to see these bills enacted into law.
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?