On December 10, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act (H.R. 729). This package of bills contains two priority fisheries conservation funding provisions for the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF), including the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act (NFHP) and the Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act.
Earlier this year, Congressional Sportsman's Caucus (CSC) Member Congressman Rob Wittman (VA) and CSC Co-Chair Congressman Marc Veasey (TX) introduced the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act (NFHP) as a standalone bill, which would authorize $7.2 million in funding for NFHP annually through FY 2023. On the day of introduction, CSF hosted a Capitol Hill breakfast briefing to educate Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and other policy makers about the importance of NFHP.
Prior to H.R. 729 passing the House, CSF submitted a statement for the record to the House Natural Resources Committee as well as a letter from the nation's top fishing conservation organizations urging Members of the Committee to pass NFHP out of Committee and to the floor for further consideration. Furthermore, in advance of the floor vote, CSF sent an action alert to House CSC Members urging them to vote "yes" on the package of H.R. 729.
The NFHP concept was first developed in 2001 by the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council to enhance public-private partnerships for fisheries conservation efforts. Today, the NFHP has grown to 20 partnerships with numerous stakeholders, including federal, state, and local agencies; conservation and other sportsmen's groups; private landowners; and businesses. Working together, the partnership mission is to implement the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. Congressional authorization through this legislation would codify the roles of involved parties and help secure an avenue for consistent funding for on-the-ground fish and aquatic habitat conservation in the states.
NFHP will ensure the National Fish Habitat Action Plan is driven by state and local partners to strategically address priority aquatic habitat needs, restore fish populations, and enhance recreational fishing opportunities. To date, the program has completed more than 840 projects in all 50 states, and non-federal dollars have been leveraged at a 2:1 ratio for every federal dollar spent.
"Healthy waterways and fish populations are absolutely critical to providing clean water and sustainable fisheries. My legislation, H.R. 1747, included in the package today, will increase transparency, put power back in the hands of stakeholders, and require accountability to ensure taxpayer dollars go further to conserve fish habitat," said CSC Member Rep. Rob Wittman (VA). "Modeled after successful programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), this program would utilize locally-driven partnerships - which have proven successful in implementing much needed habitat improvement projects. I want to thank my colleagues and the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation for their support of my legislation and hope for its consideration in the Senate soon."
"Nearly 50 million recreational fisherman and 800,000 jobs depend on healthy waterways and robust fish populations," said CSC Co-Chair Congressman Marc Veasey (TX). "I am proud to join a bipartisan group of my colleagues to continue to achieve measurable habitat conservation results through strategic partnerships that lead to better fish habitat conditions and increased fishing opportunities."
"NFHP has shown the ability to bring diverse partners together for the benefit of our nation's fisheries and its anglers, and now it's time to codify NFHP in federal law," said Jeff Crane, CSF President. "Rep. Veasey and Rep. Wittman have been instrumental in this important legislation, and we commend their dedication for accentuating this need in the angling community and working to get this important bill passed."
The Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act of 2019 (GLFRAA), introduced by Rep. Quigley (IL), will provide $17.5 million annually through FY 2029 to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct monitoring, assessments, science, and research in the Great Lakes Basin. The USGS conducts biological assessments that serve as the foundation for fishery management decisions made by federal, state, and tribal agencies. The USGS' work is critical to meeting the needs of Great Lakes state and tribal fisheries managers, however their service has operated without an explicit authorization. The GLFRAA will provide long-overdue authority and funding to ensure uninterrupted delivery of basin-wide biological assessments and monitoring, support the deployment of new technologies for better fishery management, and improve the multi-billion Great Lakes fishery.
H.R. 729 now awaits further action in the U.S. Senate.
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