2016 Year in Review

We always joke there are a lot of politics in fishing. This was particularly true in 2016. Including the late flurry of activity in December, Keep America Fishing supporters advocated for better fishing by sending letters, signing petitions and attending meetings on more than 20 federal, state, and local issues. From Berlin Pond in Vermont to the San Joaquin Delta in California and from the Boundary Waters of Minnesota to the Florida Everglades; we made our voices heard.

So as we move forward into 2017, I’d like to share some of our successes with you and personally thank each and every one of you for all you’ve done to help Keep America Fishing fight for clean water, healthy fisheries and access to both.

2016 Top Legislative Wins

Mining Leases Rejected in the Boundary Waters

Starting as a local issue in Minnesota, the threat posed by a sulfide mine in the Boundary Waters watershed propelled this issue to national prominence in 2016. Sometimes called “the Yellowstone of the Midwest,” the Boundary Waters are THE fishing and paddling paradise. It’s a place where anglers report catching 100 – 125 smallmouth bass in a single good day of fishing.

Thanks to a flood of messages from Keep America Fishing supporters like you, as well as local and national partners, the U.S. Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture denied the application for renewal of two mining leases in the area.

This decision also started a process to withdraw key portions of the watershed from new mining permits and leases. We expect a 90-day public comment period to open in the next few months. Count on Keep America Fishing to keep you in the loop on this key issue.

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Kansas and Indiana Voters Approve Right to Hunt and Fish Amendments

In a landslide vote, Right to Hunt and Fish Constitutional Amendments were passed by Kansas and Indiana voters by 81 percent and 78 percent respectively. Leading up to the election, opponents attempted to make the case that these rights didn’t need protecting but that argument clearly didn’t catch on with voters.

These amendments will provide permanent protections for Kansas and Indiana sportsmen and women from unwarranted closures and ensure that any laws regulating hunting and fishing are genuine conservation efforts based upon sound science.

Twenty-one states now have the Right to Hunt and Fish and two more have the Right to Fish.

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Outdoor REC Act Signed into Law

On December 8, 2016, President Obama signed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016 into law. Better known as the Outdoor REC Act, it will instruct the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce (DOC) to assess and analyze the outdoor recreation economy of the United States and the effects attributable to it on the overall U.S. economy.

Since outdoor recreation employs over 6 million people and generates $646 billion annually, it’s high time this was added to the major industries already tracked by the DOC.

When our elected officials see the importance of outdoor recreation in their district, you can bet those numbers will get their attention. That could mean more funding for stocking and conservation programs and more and better access to prime fishing spots.

Simply put, the increased visibility the Outdoor REC Act provides means more and better fishing.

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New Jersey Reefs

Several years ago, New Jersey invested recreational angler dollars to construct a network of artificial reefs. Unfortunately, commercial fishermen moved in and blanketed these reefs with pots and traps that snag lines. Between the gear and lines on the bottom and the markers on the surface, some of these reefs have become unfishable.

Thanks to outreach from Keep America Fishing supporters and many others, the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council voted 11-7 to designate these reefs a Special Management Zone (SMZ). The SMZ designation ends ten years of gear conflicts by limiting the SMZ to hook-and-line and spear fishing.

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Proposal to Eradicate CA Bass Withdrawn

In the face of opposition from anglers across the country, a state-level proposal in California to eradicate striped, smallmouth, and largemouth bass from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its tributaries, was withdrawn.

Thanks to help from a coalition of groups including B.A.S.S., FLW, CCA California, CA Sportfishing League, and many more, thousands of fishermen like you from across the country joined forces by signing petitions, making phone calls, writing letters, publishing articles, and spreading the word to defeat this nonsensical proposal before the scheduled hearing.

Unfortunately, in an 11th hour maneuver in the lame duck Congress, similar language was tacked onto an important Federal water bill. While this bill was passed, we can be proud of the battle we won together.

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Water Infrastructure Bill Supports Important Projects in Florida

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act was passed by Congress on December 12, 2016.

While the WIIN Act authorizes funding for water projects around the nation, it is especially important for clean water and healthy fisheries in Florida. It includes $1.95 billion for the crucial Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) and $113 million for Picayune Strand water flow restoration.

CEPP is a critical step toward facilitating the flow and treatment of water south of Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades. These changes will reduce the need for the water releases into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuary systems that have resulted in extensive habitat and fisheries damages.

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As 2017 begins, we have already rolled up our sleeves and are actively working with the transition team to ensure that recreational fishing and conservation is a priority for the incoming administration. Issues such as Boundary Waters and ethanol are already on the move and we expect several of the issues that got passed to the new Congress to be hot topics this year.

Since the coming year is shaping up to be a big one for anyone interested in the outdoors, we’ll need your continued support to strengthen our position as the conservation leaders that we are.

Fish on,

John Stillwagon
Keep America Fishing