Senate Panel Advances Legislative Priorities for Anglers and Hunters
Bozeman, Montana — November 20, 2015 — The American Fly Fishing Trade Association commends the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for voting yesterday, November 19, 2015, to advance the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015. Overwhelming bipartisan support was shown, with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah casting the sole recorded vote in opposition.
The legislation proposes to protect and enhance public access for fishing, hunting, and target-shooting on federal lands, and includes sensible provisions to conserve fish and wildlife habitat. Reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) — viewed as crucial for sportsmen — is attached to the Sportsman’s Act. The LWCF, established in 1965, funds the purchase and development of wildlife refuges, parks, and recreational resources. LWCF receives its funding from a percentage of oil and gas revenues collected from companies extracting resources on the Outer Continental Shelf. A federal portion of the LWCF provides funding for additions to national wildlife refuges, national parks, and national forests, making it a keystone component of habitat preservation.
Introduced by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Deb Fischer (R-NE), the Act has been supported by every major angling and hunting organization in the country.
AFFTA President Ben Bulis commented, “It’s great to see partisan politics put aside in support of hunters, anglers and outdoor recreational enthusiasts. Sportsmen and women were concerned that this session of Congress would end without addressing the needs of the outdoor recreation economy, but the committee’s actions provide a clear message of support.”
AFFTA advocates for and promotes the sustained growth of the fly fishing industry. By igniting consumer demand for products and services, providing businesses the tools to be successful, and advocating for access, protection and restoration of fishing waters, we will continue to enhance the passion and profitability of the sport of fly fishing.
Today, the new Clean Water Act rulemaking goes into effect across the nation (with the exception of thirteen states including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, which are involved in an injunction temporarily blocking the rule from going into effect in those states), protecting drinking water for thousands and ensuring habitat for vital headwaters fisheries. Ben Bulis, President of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association issued the following statement in reaction to today’s implementation of the Clean Water Rule:
“We commend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and President Obama for making this revised rulemaking a priority, and clean water a certainty for Americans. AFFTA is the sole trade and advocacy organization for the fly-fishing industry and our mission is to promote the sustained growth of our industry. We cannot achieve our mission without clean water. According to a recent study from the National Wildlife Federation, more than 80% of hunters and anglers feel strongly that the Clean Water Rule should apply to smaller, headwaters streams and habitat. These sportsmen are pleased with the new rulemaking.
Additionally, data from a 2013 report by the American Sportfishing Association titled “Sportfishing in America: An Economic Force for Conservation,” anglers contributed about $115 billion in economic output in 2011. These economic contributions from recreational fishing have continued to grow over the past several decades. The protections the Clean Water Act will provide to wildlife habitat has a direct positive effect to the bottom line of our industry.
Our industry relies on clean water to thrive. Thankfully, the new rule reduces confusion about the Clean Water Act by clarifying the types of waters covered. Knowing which waters are covered is a significant step to ensuring our members have access to clean water and healthy fish populations, and will help protect the headwater streams that provide vital spawning and rearing habitat for trout and salmon. Moreover, the waters protected by the new rule are sources of clean water for downstream communities and industries like ours.
Reinstating these protections, especially after events like the dead zones discovered in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay last year, will bring about healthier ecosystems that will benefit fish and wildlife, allow the American people places to recreate and our industry to conduct business.
We look forward to seeing thousands of acres of habitat rebound in areas now protected, ensuring wildlife populations that will support our industry for decades to come. The need for healthy fisheries and access to them is quite simple, as our industry would fail to sustain itself without those two vital components. Again, we thank the Obama Administration for making clean water and our fisheries a priority for the American people.”
As a trade association representing an industry dependent of clean water, clean air and access to healthy natural venues, we are alarmed by the lack of action taken to address this clear and pressing danger to the future of our businesses and our world.
AFFTA agrees with NASA, NOAA, the National Academy of Sciences and many other major scientific organizations around the world that human activity is warming the planet with CO2 emissions and putting our future at risk.
Climate change is no longer a potential threat; It demands our attention now. We applaud our members who have taken pro-active steps to address this challenge in their businesses and encourage others to look for opportunities to do likewise.
We call on our elected officials to put partisan politics aside and work quickly to enact federal policy to address the threats presented by global climate change.
June 23, 2015
Michael T Braynen
Director Department of Marine Resources
P.O. Box N 3028
The destination angler traveling to the Bahamas has for many decades played a vital role in the health of the Bahamian economy. These tens of thousands of Bahamas-bound anglers also play a crucial role in the U.S.-based fly-fishing industry as a whole. For these reasons, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) opposes the Fisheries Resources Regulations of 2015 in its present draft form. We would further encourage Bahamian legislators to carefully consider the negative impacts that such heavy-handed and unnecessary regulation will have on destination angling and fly fishing throughout the Bahamas.
We strongly encourage the Bahamian government to reject the draft of these regulations in their present form and seriously evaluate whether these proposed regulations are truly good for the Bahamas as a whole.
Recent data (from The Economic Impact of Flats Fishing in The Bahamas; Tony Fedler, Ph.D) shows that anglers traveling to the Bahamas in 2010 spent over $141 million to fish the Bahamas, bringing to the developed islands of the Bahamas (and perhaps more importantly the out-islands) thousands of jobs and economic benefit. And the best news of all: These anglers were spending money on a low-impact, totally renewable pastime on the islands and in the communities that need it the most. Fast-forward to 2016 with the U.S.’s improved economy and an end to its recession, there is little doubt that this number of $141 million will in all likelihood significantly increase.
The ill-conceived and downright puzzling attempts by a small number of self-serving individuals in the Bahamian fly fishing industry to fast-track the proposed Fisheries Resources Regulations has already put the destination fishing industry of the Bahamas at great risk. The industry outcry, social media reaction and backlash in the last two days alone have already tarnished the image of the Bahamas as a paradise for traveling anglers. If key elements of this proposed legislation become reality, there is a chance that the lucrative and valuable destination angling industry servicing the Bahamas will suffer catastrophic damage that will negatively affect the Bahamian economy.
Creating an environment where foreign anglers, non-Bahamian lodge and property owners, and even casual tourists looking to fish are essentially locked off the water and off the flats makes no sense at all. While a handful of local guides and lodge owners might see this as a short-term win and a way to artificially strengthen their own small businesses, the Bahamas as a whole will lose in a big way. Heavy-handed and unnecessary regulations will send a message to destination anglers throughout the world that they are not welcome in the Bahamas unless they are willing to pay to fish with a small number of “select” guides or lodges. This at a time when Belize, the Yucatan, Cuba and numerous other international destinations are welcoming and marketing to foreign anglers and investors like never before. The proposed regulations will successfully and immediately drive destination anglers and the dollars and jobs that they bring to destinations other than the Bahamas. The Bahamian government should be doing whatever it takes to increase sustainable anglers’ access to the flats instead of limiting access.
Our industry members are deeply concerned with the proposed Fisheries Resource Regulations and the impacts these new laws would have on their businesses and the fly-fishing industry as a whole.
As one lodge owner from Abaco recently stated, the timing and the tone of the proposed regulations are awful and will further erode the competitive position of the Bahamas as a fishing destination at a time when visitors are already reeling from the recent imposition of Value added tax.
Other industry members and fly-fishing businesses have also weighed on the issue this past week.
“As a fly shop owner that currently hosts annual trips to the Bahamas, I am very concerned by the proposed regulations,” said AFFTA member Colby Trow, who owns Mossy Creek Fly Fishing in Virginia. “Over the past 12 years of hosting fishing trips in the Bahamas, our retail shop has brought over $75,000 annually to the Bahamian economy. The proposed changes would unconstructively impact our customers who presently travel to the Bahamas and will certainly create a situation where we would look to other flats destinations throughout the Caribbean.”
President of Simms Fishing Products K.C. Walsh further added, “there is no doubt that such short-sighted legislation will negatively impact the economy of the Bahamas and reduce access for visiting anglers. If the draft proposal passes, anglers that currently travel to the Bahamas will surely find other flats fishing destinations.”
Ian Davis, co-owner and saltwater program director for Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures commented “it is unfortunate that a small number of self-serving, outspoken guides and lodge owners have gathered momentum to the point that these regulations are actually being considered and discussed. The potential harm to the Bahamian sportfishing industry is immeasurable.”
The one piece of the proposed regulations that AFFTA and the fly fishing industry would support would be a daily and weekly marine fishing license for all recreational anglers fishing in the Bahamas. If a license were easily attainable on-line, provided indiscriminate access to the flats and the shallow waters of the Bahamas, and if the funds generated were designated for conservation and protection of Bahamian resources, then a sportfishing license could be a great thing for the Bahamas and its economy. The key with a successful and well-executed license program will use generated funds to enhance and protect the flats’ ecosystems and habitats, drawing more anglers into the Bahamian tourism economy.
In closing, it is important that input on this issue should be solicited from all involved and concerned parties, including independent Bahamian guides, lodges (both foreign-owned and locally owned), anglers, second home-owners, scientists, conservation groups and the fly fishing industry as a whole. Rushing forward on legislation that will ultimately cost the Bahamas hundreds of millions of dollars in angling-related revenue and countless jobs throughout the country would be a tragic mistake.
Ben Bulis President – American Fly Fishing Trade Association
Tucker Ladd Chairman – American Fly Fishing Trade Association
Jim Klug Chairman Emeritus – American Fly Fishing Trade Association
Chairman – AFFTA Fisheries Fund