AFFTA is firmly committed to the principle that access to healthy habitat creates recreational opportunity and that recreational opportunity creates economic activity for our members. That equation drives our decisions on what public policy efforts we lend our support to. Below are some of the broad policy efforts we engage in.
National Fish Habitat Partnership
The mission of the National Fish Habitat Partnership is to protect, restore and enhance the nation’s fish and aquatic communities through partnerships, like the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture and the Western Native Trout Initiative, that foster fish habitat conservation and improve the quality of life for the American people. AFFTA has been an advocate for and strong supporter of the NFHP.
National Fish Habitat Conservation Act
The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, S. 1201, was introduced in June by Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and co-sponsored by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Mark Udall (D-CO).
The legislation authorizes grants for fish habitat projects that are supported by pre-existing regional Fish Habitat Partnerships. The legislation establishes a multi-stakeholder National Fish Habitat Board to recommend science-based conservation projects to the Secretary of Interior for assistance. Regional partners implement those conservation projects to protect, restore and enhance fish habitats and fish populations.
AFFTA supports efforts to fund conservation programs and help defend against effort to defund or de-authorize important programs. Congress had proposed dramatically reducing or eliminating funding for key conservation programs including, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the National Fish Habitat Partnership.
AFFTA and our colleagues believe the federal budget cannot and should not be balanced disproportionately on the backs of conservation, outdoor recreation and preservation. Doing so will impose on the future generations whose well-being depends on the conservation and preservation of our common natural and historic resources.
Highway Bill and Farm Bill
There are also important opportunities for funding conservation programs in legislation that would reauthorize federal highway programs and federal farm programs. AFFTA is working with our colleague organizations to support and enhance these important conservation programs.
Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund
Reauthorization of the federal highway programs is also important for reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. The trust fund, which the industry contributes to through payment of excise taxes on fishing tackle and gear, provides critical funding for access and fishery management in each state. The trust fund delivers millions of dollars each year to state fishing and boating programs.
Clean Water Act Jurisdiction
In the previous session of Congress legislation was introduced to restore critical Clean Water Act protections for streams, lakes, wetlands, and other waters left venerable by the Supreme Court’s SWANCC and Rapanos decisions. Unfortunately the legislation did not pass. The prospect for successfully legislating a clarification of the jurisdictional issues of the Clean Water Act seems unlikely.
In May 2011, the U.S. EPA issued draft guidance clarifying how they will identify waters protected by the Clean Water Act and implement the Supreme Court’s decisions concerning the extent of waters covered by the Act and provides guidance to agency field staff in making determinations about whether waters are protected by the CWA. This draft guidance document is not a rule, and hence it is not binding and lacks the force of law. AFFTA believes this guidance is both necessary and appropriate. We joined with our colleagues in sending a letter of support for this action to Congress.
The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, H.R. 2018
AFFTA joined with a number of our conservation colleagues in opposing the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act.
The legislation proposes sweeping changes to the Clean Water Act undercutting the progress the Act has made in restoring our waters over the last four decades. The bill purports to strengthen “cooperative federalism” by giving the states more control over EPA’s Clean Water Act oversight. AFFTA and others believe the bill undermines the federal-state partnership on which the Clean Water Act is based.
While AFFTA and our colleagues indicated a willingness to consider an appropriate increased role for the states, the legislation as written weakens implementation of the Clean Water Act.
Protecting Bristol Bay in Alaska/ No Pebble Mine
AFFTA supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Watershed Assessment of Bristol Bay that reviews the consequences of large-scale development projects, such as the proposed copper and gold Pebble mine, in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. The watershed is home to world-class salmon runs and a treasured fishing destination. AFFTA is on record supporting a Clean Water Act 404(c) determination for Bristol Bay. We believe the risks from extraction threaten this fishery and the economic activity it represents to our members.
Wilderness and Roadless Areas
Recently AFFTA joined with Trout Unlimited in opposing the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, S. 1087 and H.R. 1581 because of our concerns that the legislation, if it became law, would remove vital protections for our country’s remarkable backcountry resources.
Our nation’s roadless lands provide refuge for the bulk of our country’s remaining native trout populations. These lands are sources of our country’s cleanest water and our most intact fish and game habitat. The legislation would make it possible for industrial and motorized incursion into the backcountry, putting into question the future of our healthiest habitat, and taking aim at our prized public lands fly fishing opportunity. The legislation would also undermine local efforts working on the future management of backcountry lands.
America’s backcountry represent the last American frontier, where fish and wildlife can thrive and hunters, anglers and others can experience the outdoors in a wild, natural state.
America’s Great Outdoors
The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative promotes and supports innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors. Numerous public listening sessions where held across the country to gather comments and ideas for the initiative. A report was presented in February to President Obama that proposed community-based strategies and activities to implement the AGO Initiative. In November 2011, Secretary Salazar issued a 50-State America’s Great Outdoors Report outlining more than 100 of the country’s most promising projects designed to protect special places and increase access to outdoor spaces.
AFFTA supports these key AGO recommendations:
• Improving access to public lands and waterways
• Noting the National Fish Habitat Action Plan in the importance of federal partnerships with state and local governments in the restoration and conservation of waterways;
• Launching a public awareness campaign showing outdoor recreation is fun, easy and healthy;
• Provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund programs
Trout Unlimited’s CEO, Chris Wood and Jim Klug teamed up on an Op-Ed in support AGO.
Recreational Fishing Access
AFFTA’s position on access embraces the responsible conservation of the natural resource and balancing the relationship between both landowner and anglers. AFFTA watches for access implications in both state and federal policy proposals.
Montana House Bill 309
AFFTA and the fly-fishing industry were front-and-center in March in Helena, Montana, as state lawmakers heard testimony on an access bill that would classify many natural Montana stream channels as off-limits “ditches”.
AFFTA went on record opposing HB 309, joining hundreds of others who were there to oppose the bill. AFFTA Chairman Jim Klug testified on the value of Montana’s progressive stream access laws, arguing that access is crucial for the regional and national businesses involved in the fishing industry. Calling HB 309 an “unnecessary solution in search of a problem,” Klug also argued that HB 309 would undermine Montana’s existing and current balanced stream access laws. The good news is the legislation ultimately died in committee.
Utah Stream Access Coalition
AFFTA pledged its financial support to the Utah Stream Access Coalition to help in their fight to overturn the State’s 2010 decision severely limiting stream access in Utah. The Coalition has attorneys working pro-bono on the project but there are many associated costs involved in the process. AFFTA created a “matching fund” totaling $2,500 to help with those costs. AFFTA members quickly responded and USAC received these much need funds.
AFFTA members can continue to make a positive contribution toward providing more stream access to fishermen in the state of Utah, as well as helping establish a precedent for future changes in stream access laws across the country by making donations directly to USAC at UtahStreamAccess.org