This past year hunters and anglers enjoyed the spotlight in congress; something we rarely realize. The Sportsmen Act of 2012 became a political football and didn’t come to fruition. While I enjoy the fact that our issues were front and center, ultimately we didn’t get it done. It’s time to capitalize on the attention and double down on our efforts. Together, we can protect our heritage for our children’s future. Just think if we could get it all done….
<· Passage of the Sportsmen Act. This bill is a combination of 19 bills making it the largest sportsmen package in a lifetime. Some political shenanigans kept it from passage in 2012. Hunting and fishing, and for that matter conservation, are bi-partisan, let’s get it done!
<· Restoration of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s almost been a 1000 days since the BP oil spill. Recently BP settled on the criminal lawsuit for 4.5 billion of which much of that money will go for restoration. It’s time for BP to settle on the Clean Water Act Penalties that they owe ranging from $15-20 billion. The Department of Justice must hold BP accountable and restore Sportsman’s Paradise.
<· Full Funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is the only consistent fund for land protection and access in the nation. Right here in my home state of Montana I think of the Blackfoot Valley that is home to the famous Blackfoot River that wouldn’t be the same without funding through LWCF or the 70% of fishing access sites across the state that are fully or partially paid for by LWCF. The kicker is the Fund was established back in the 60’s using off shore oil revenue. But it has only realizes its full funding of $900 million once. Conservation is a money generator!
<· National Sodsaver and Conservation Compliance. Over 95% of our nation’s native sod has been converted. What’s left hasn’t been busted up because it just doesn’t produce. But markets are driving farmers to bust the remaining native sod essential to wildlife. Sodsaver is simple, farmers are free to break it up but they won’t get crop insurance when they do. Conservation Compliance takes this same route. We need this provision in the next Farm Bill!
<· Passage of an Omnibus Public Lands Bill. Back in 2009 Congress came together in bi-partisan fashion to pass a public lands bill with designations of national battlefields to new wilderness areas. It’s time for Congress to come together again. Right here in Montana we have two home grown public land proposals in the Forest Job and Recreation Act and Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.
<· National Flood Insurance Reform. The Mississippi River, Red River, and countless others flood every year putting stress on our nation’s pocket book as we dole out disaster payments and reconstruction costs. Over a century of trying to control mother-nature hasn’t worked. Let’s apply some common sense to Flood Insurance. If you want to build in a flood plain…go ahead but you won’t get Flood Insurance. Pretty simple really. This will ultimately help restore riparian areas that coincide with our waterways, the lifeline for wildlife corridors.
<· Restoration of Free Roaming Bison. One of the biggest tragedies of our time is the extirpation of bison from the prairies. Bison are the only large game species we haven’t restored back to robust populations. From pronghorn antelope and elk to wolves and grizzly bears it’s quite a remarkable comeback story. We have a responsibility and a place to do it, the 1.1 million acre Charles M. National Wildlife Refuge in North Central Montana.
<· Protect Bristol Bay. As proposed, the Pebble Mine project would be the largest open pit mine in the world requiring the largest containment pond held back by the largest earthen dam, 700 ft tall. All of this at the headwaters of Bristol Bay in Alaska which supports one of the last remaining strongholds for spawning salmon and a $500 million annual boost to the economy. Further, the proposed mine site is located in one of the most active seismic areas in Alaska, and that’s saying a lot. Nobody is asking for an end to mining…but let’s not do it here. Some places are just too important to our outdoor heritage and must be protected.
<· Expand Conservation Funding Revenue. A unique and productive partnership between hunters, anglers, elements of the outdoor recreation industry, and state and federal agencies has sustained fish and wildlife management in the United States for the past 75 years. The circumstances under which that model evolved are changing and conservation focus is expanding to include species diversity. At the same time, outdoor recreation options and interests are expanding to new and diverse wildlife and nature experiences that generate no reciprocal revenue. As a result, state and federal agencies are feeling a fiscal pinch as demands for alternative wildlife experiences increase and revenues from traditional sources stay static, though we did enjoy an increase in hunters and anglers this past cycle. Finding an answer to this fiscal challenge will determine how we move forward to resolve the seminal issue facing fish and wildlife managers in both public and private spheres of conservation. Hunters and anglers have paid the way for conservation for years, other user groups must now step up and pay their way.
<· Climate Change. Climate change is happening whether you believe it is human caused or not, impacting cold water fisheries, waterfowl migration, ice fishing, big game migration, etc. All of the conservation efforts we have been engaged in will be for not if we don’t address this issue. Many of the policies mentioned above will ultimately help wildlife survive a climate change by adding resilience but we must address carbon pollution to ultimately address the problem.