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.

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National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (Senate Bill - PDF)