By Mike Leonard
For several years, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and other leading outdoor organizations have been working with Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to address the rapid decline of fish, wildlife and their habitats. Known as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), this legislation is one of the most important conservation efforts in decades.
If you are unfamiliar with ASA, we are the nation’s trade association that looks out for the interests of the sportfishing industry and anglers throughout the U.S. In 2023, ASA will celebrate 90 years of working on your behalf for clean water, healthy habitat and abundant fisheries.
As anglers, we deeply value the health of the natural environment and put our money where our mouth is. The license fees and excise taxes paid by anglers are the primary, or exclusive, funding source for state fish and wildlife agencies,
However, state agencies are responsible for a growing set of management responsibilities for non-game species, which continue to decline across the country. Given the social, economic and conservation importance of recreational fishing and other outdoor activities, we must make every effort to ensure that fish and wildlife are conserved for future generations and that state agencies have the funding they need to meet their management responsibilities. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act does exactly that, dedicating $1.4 billion annually to state fish and wildlife agencies to help conserve at-risk species.
A majority of the money allocated in the bill goes toward funding the congressionally mandated, but severely underfunded, State Wildlife Action Plans, which work to conserve at-risk fish and wildlife. The plans help ensure that conservation decisions are rooted in sound science and are made at the state and local levels by those who best know the species.
Examples of action plan projects include wetland and stream restoration, invasive species controls, such as barriers that will benefit fish passage, and flood and water management plans for both public and private lands and waters.
This important environmental restoration work is also good for the economy. Every $1 million invested in species conservation and restoration creates 17 to 33 jobs, which translates to 23,800 to 33,600 conservation-based jobs annually across the country.
Despite the efforts that have already underway toward passing the bill, there is more work to do. KeepAmericaFishing, ASA’s grassroots advocacy program for fishing enthusiasts like you, provides a way for you to help.
Go to the KeepAmericaFishing Action Center where you can directly contact your members of Congress and urge them to support this important piece of legislation that will conserve the nation’s fisheries, helping to ensure quality fishing opportunities for generations to come.
Mike Leonard is the Vice President of Government Affairs at the American Sportfishing Association.