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Senate Commerce Committee approves important sportfishing bills

by American Sportfishing Association 17 Jun 08:14 PDT
Billfishes in a changing world © IGFA

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee held an executive session that included consideration and passage of several bills supported by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). This included committee passage of S. 1995, the Sport Fish Restoration, Recreational Boating Safety, and Wildlife Restoration Act of 2021, authored by Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

"We're pleased to see the Senate Commerce Committee's strong support for reauthorizing the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund," said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs for ASA. "The trust fund is the backbone of state-based aquatic resource conservation, benefitting all 50 states, the nation's 55 million anglers and the $129 billion recreational fishing economy."

The committee rejected an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would have hampered states' ability to use Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funds to acquire real property for conservation or public access purposes. Prior to the hearing, ASA encouraged committee members to reject the amendment, given the tremendously popular track record of this tool being used to conserve fish habitat and create fishing and boating access.

In addition, the committee approved S. 2016, the Surface Transportation Investment Act, also sponsored by Sens. Cantwell and Wicker, which authorizes transportation infrastructure programs under the committee's jurisdiction.

This bill includes a landmark "National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program," which will address challenges with hundreds of culverts, particularly those in the Pacific northwest that threaten salmon and steelhead runs. The bill authorizes $800 million for each of next five fiscal years to advance both economic and environmental goals by removing man-made barriers to help recreate natural stream conditions.

Other bills approved today, which ASA supports, include:

  • S. 66, the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act, sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), which would require an assessment on the causes and consequences of harmful algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee and around Florida's southern coastlines, identify needed resources and develop a plan of action to address these challenges.
  • S. 1894, the Regional Ocean Partnership Act, sponsored by Sen. Wicker, which would designate voluntarily regional ocean partnerships comprised of state, local and federal governments and stakeholders to address ocean and coastal issues of common concern for the region.
"The Senate Commerce Committee's advancement of these bills is an important step in the legislative process," said Leonard. "We call on Congress to recognize and prioritize the economic, social and conservation benefits of healthy and accessible aquatic resources, particularly as it continues to work toward a final infrastructure package."

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