Thursday, June 18, 2009

State Fish & Wildlife Agencies Support Restoration of Previous Clean Water Act Jurisdiction

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies appreciates the action of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in reporting the Clean Water Restoration Act out of committee today with a favorable substitute amendment to tightly restore previous jurisdiction.

The amendment to the bill would restore Clean Water Act jurisdiction over isolated, intrastate wetlands and intermittent streams, which are vital habitats for fish and wildlife, to the jurisdictional application that existed prior to two recent Supreme Court decisions (SWANCC,2001; and Carabell-Rapanos,2006). The substitute language is very tightly drafted to only restore previous jurisdiction and not expand jurisdiction. It also imports into statute the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule defining "waters of the United States.”

In support of the favored amendment to the bill, the Association joined with five other state executive branch organizations -- the Environmental Council of the States, the Association of State Wetland Managers, the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, the Association of State Floodplain Managers and the Coastal States Organization -- in sending a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and its Chairman Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), on June 10, 2009.

The letter states:

“We have reviewed the compromise language for the Clean Water Restoration Act that your staff and the offices of Senators Baucus and Klobuchar reached as of June 10, 2009. We endorse this approach to solving the nation's Clean Water Act jurisdictional issues.

We believe that the clarified definition of “waters of the United States” will achieve a definitive return to the Act as it was without increasing or reducing the scope of its jurisdiction. The exemptions for agriculture, silviculture and other activities would remain in place. Further, we believe that the compromise language's reliance on the previous regulatory definition and interpretations of it neither broadens or lessens federal authority, nor causes a loss of states’ rights. We note that the compromise language makes findings that assert that “ground waters” and certain manmade artificial waters are not included in the jurisdiction of the Act. Also, the compromise language explicitly grounds these Clean Water Act protections within the scope of Congress' constitutional authorities.

We strongly encourage Congress and the Administration to continue to work together to make State Assumption of Section 404 a viable option, as it is for other sections of the Act. Primarily, a new authority is needed that authorizes EPA to provide states with grants to implement wetlands protection programs.

We are hopeful that the bill will pass out of committee and be enacted by the Senate at its earliest opportunity. Thank you for considering our views.”

View the letter >

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MD DNR Deputy Secretary Delivers Congressional Testimony on behalf of Assoc. of Fish & Wildlife Agencies in Strong Support of Fish Habitat Legislation

On behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Eric Schwaab, Deputy Secretary, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, today testified at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing in support of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NFHCA) (HR2565) and the Pacific Salmon Stronghold Conservation Act (PSSCA) (HR2055).

Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Ron Kind (WI) on May 21, 2009, the NFHCA is a high priority for the Association. The bill would create an architecture for the National Fish Habitat Action Plan; authorize and define the National Fish Habitat Board; identify terms for Fish Habitat Partnerships and standards for projects to be submitted for funding consideration; establish a National Fish Habitat Partnership office under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; authorize the program at $75M; and other provisions.

“The Plan offers an investment strategy to support and formalize a fledgling infrastructure already working hard unto that end,” said Schwaab. “The investment will pay rich dividends — clean water, healthy ecosystems, abundant fish, fewer ESA listings, and quality water-based places to recreate, which will also support our economy. Absent the funding contemplated in the Act, it will be difficult to sustain the existing momentum and voluntary coordination of federal and state agencies in progress.”

The PSSCA, introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson (CA), seeks to focus Pacific salmon conservation efforts on high priority conservation areas.

“The PSSCA will build the third leg of the stool to complement the NFHCA and existing salmon habitat conservation programs by focusing on public/private efforts to identify and protect a range-wide network of strongholds, facilitating a holistic and balanced approach to wild salmon conservation,” added Schwaab. “This added element is essential for helping the National Fish Habitat Board achieve its national goals by contributing to regional and international coordinated conservation actions specific to Pacific salmon.”

For more information about the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, the most comprehensive, science-based effort ever attempted to treat the causes of aquatic habitat decline and the fix the nation’s most pressing fisheries problems, visit

Read the full testimony >

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Landmark Fish Habitat Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

Legislation offers grassroots, tanglible solutions to restore America's waterways

Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Robert Casey (D-PA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Bernie Sanders (ID-VT) on June 9 introduced the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act of 2009, a comprehensive strategy to support and fund for effective conservation of our national waterways and the fisheries associated with them.

“The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, which I introduced today along with Senators Bond, Casey, Stabenow, Cardin, Whitehouse, Crapo and Sanders, will revolutionize how we as a nation approach fish habitat conservation issues,” said Senator Lieberman. “With 40 percent of our fish populations in decline and half of our nation’s fresh waters already impaired, the current fragmented approach to fish habitat protection has clearly not worked and in turn put aquatic resources preservation in a race against time.”

“This bill encourages collaborative regional conservation efforts that bring together federal government agencies, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, fishing industry groups, private land owners, stakeholders and businesses,” he added. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to enact this critical legislation to help conserve fish stocks and habitat across the country.”

The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act addresses a continuing and alarming downward trend in our nation’s fish species resulting from loss in the amount and quality of our nation’s most important freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats.

Under this legislation, federal and state governments, the recreational and commercial fishing industries, the conservation community and businesses will work together collectively to voluntarily conserve (protect, restore and enhance) America’s aquatic habitats. The legislation will ensure that science-based conservation approaches that focus on the causes of habitat degradation and not on the symptoms of the many problems our waters face are utilized to change the trajectory of our nation’s waters.

The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act also leverages existing and critical, new federal, state and private funds to build voluntary regional partnerships equipped to use science based strategies and actions to solve the nation’s biggest fisheries problems associated with habitat loss and degradation.

The bill is supported by numerous leading conservation organizations including the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, the American Sportfishing Association, The Nature Conservancy, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Trout Unlimited, American Fly Fishing Trade Association and several federal and state agencies and non-governmental organizations and other trade organizations, all of which share a common interest in the success of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.

“I would first like to express my sincere gratitude to the sponsors of the bill and their commitment to improving the quality of life in this country,” said Kelly Hepler, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “The waterways in our country are the true lifeblood of our nation. The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act will not only provide additional fishing opportunities but will also improve the overall health of our fresh and marine waters and therefore the health of our families.”

Legislation that mirrors the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act introduced in the Senate was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR2565) by Representative Ron Kind (WI) on May 21, 2009.

Read full story

National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (Senate Bill - PDF)

America’s Wildlife Heritage Act will Level the Playing Field for Fish and Wildlife

WASHINGTON—Representatives Ron Kind (WI) and Walter Jones (NC) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives yesterday that will help improve populations of fish and wildlife on America’s National Forests and BLM lands.

The America’s Wildlife Heritage Act would end years of litigation and uncertainty surrounding the fish and wildlife planning protocols for federal lands by providing the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with clear directives and science-based tools to sustain and monitor healthy populations of fish and wildlife and their lands. The bill further would require improved coordination between federal and state agencies to achieve their mutual objectives.

“In addition to creating standards for establishing fish and wildlife population objectives to which BLM and FS land management plans are to aspire, the bill significantly directs and facilitates that these population objectives be achieved based on an evaluation and monitoring program that is designed and implemented in cooperation with the state fish and wildlife agencies,” said Gary Taylor, Legislative Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

“States have principal authorities and responsibilities for managing fish and wildlife within their borders, including on most federal lands, and it is vitally important that the states and federal land managers work closely together to enhance the sustainability of fish, wildlife and their habitats on these important multiple-use public lands,” added Taylor.

Forest Service and BLM lands hold some of the best remaining lands for big game and sport fish species, provide habitat for countless other species, both imperiled and common, and protect some 3,400 public water supplies. But they are also under increasing pressure oil and gas planned development and the serious changes wrought by global warming.

“The America’s Wildlife Heritage Act is a bill that is good for America’s sportsmen and women because it will compel the federal land management agencies to do a much better job of prioritizing the needs of fish and wildlife populations in their planning processes,” said Steve Williams, President of the Wildlife Management Institute. “Fish and wildlife have taken a back seat to oil and gas leasing and other uses of federal lands for too long, and this bill will level the playing field as our nation’s multiple use laws have always intended,” said Williams.

“Hunters and anglers are do-ers, and we are sometimes skeptical of planning and monitoring,” said Steve Moyer, Vice President of Government Affairs at Trout Unlimited. But we know that with the many forces of habitat destruction on our public lands, especially the adverse affects of climate change, our federal land managers must plan and monitor better if we are to enjoy hunting and fishing in coming generations,” concluded Moyer.