National Fish Habitat Conservation Act

Since the idea was presented about nine years ago, the concept of a national framework for fish habitat restoration has been met with nearly unanimous support. The few that questioned the reality of such a large-scale effort generally were concerned about the complexities of pulling it off.

Based on the successful model of the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which restored waterfowl populations across the country, the National Fish Habitat Action Plan seeks to do for fish what we've done for ducks. However, the challenges facing a similar fisheries initiative are formidable.

The primary limiting factor for ducks was in the breeding grounds. Protect nesting habitat and water bodies and the ducks would be on their way to recovery. For fish, it's not that simple. The water in which they live flows across multiple jurisdictions and habitat has been negatively impacted for a number of reasons.

The NFHAP seeks to address problems with fish habitat on a local partnership basis. Driven by local stakeholders, the process can be successful. Everyone's pretty much in agreement, and officially recognized partnerships are already organized and doing work. More are coming together every year, including the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership. Now all we need is funding to get the job done.

Congressman Ron Kind (D-Wis.) has introduced H.R. 2565, the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, a bill that seeks to establish the NFHAP legislatively and provide the necessary funding to be successful. At around $70 million per year, it seems like a bargain given the way they spend money in D.C. these days.

Even though both sides of the aisle are supportive, there have yet to be any co-sponsors to sign on. You would think that a noncontentious bill would be quick to garner support, given the controversial debates surrounding issues like a national healthcare system. However, the contentious issues are probably the reason why this bill hasn't moved. Everyone's too focused on partisan politics.

Let's remind Congress that there are some other important bills out there that they don't have to bicker over. Ask your representative in Congress to sign on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 2565, and let's do something positive in D.C. this year. Let's help our fisheries to be better tomorrow than they are today!

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