Editor’s note: The following is a guest essay written by Keith Curley, director of government affairs for Trout Unlimited. Learn more about the federal government’s proposed cuts to conservation programs and how your voice can be heard on nature.org.

As spring makes its arrival, anglers across the country are getting ready to dust off their fishing rods and hit the water. Some 30 million anglers will fish in the U.S. this year, generating $42 billion in expenditures that help support local businesses and generate jobs.

Sportsmen and women know that good hunting and fishing depends on two things: healthy fish and wildlife habitat, and public access. As long as we maintain abundant habitat and access, we can count on the economic benefits of hunting and fishing year after year, and secure our sporting heritage for ourselves and future generations.

But this year a cloud hangs over our hunting and fishing future. HR 1, a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, went far beyond its initial purpose and became a grab bag of harmful legislative riders that undermine protections for the habitat that supports our nation’s fish and wildlife populations.

One rider that hunters and anglers should be most concerned about strikes at the heart of the Clean Water Act. Recent Supreme Court decisions have resulted in the loss of Clean Water Act protection for at least 20 million acres of wetlands that are essential to waterfowl populations. The rider blocks the federal government from restoring lost protections for small streams, adjacent wetlands and geographically isolated waters that provide much of the habitat needed by fish and wildlife. These headwaters and wetlands are also the source of most of the water that flows through the nation’s waterways.

Another rider blocks the implementation of travel management plans on National Forests. These plans have been painstakingly developed over the past several years to prevent the harmful impacts of unmanaged motorized access while working toward a safe, sustainable road and trail system. In developing travel management plans the Forest Service held numerous public meetings and gathered thousands of public comments. Blocking implementation of these travel management plans would undo this progress and squander all of the time and effort that went into development of these plans.

HR 1’s funding provisions cut deeply into conservation programs. Funding cuts are to be expected in a time when our nation faces large deficits, but some of the proposed cuts make little sense. For example, HR 1 cut $393 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that pays for itself through offshore oil and gas receipts. Using the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enhance habitat protections and recreational access helps to sustain hunting and fishing traditions and the outdoor economy.

We as sportsmen and women are willing to shoulder our share of budget cuts, but we will cry foul when faced with disproportionate cuts and ill-conceived legislative riders which should not be on appropriations bills. If HR 1 were to become law, our nation’s rivers and streams and our sporting heritage would suffer, as would the local economies that depend on them.

The nation deserves much better. The U.S. Congress has a duty to address our fiscal problems in a way that is worthy of the support of Americans who love the outdoors.

(Image: Keith Curley with a Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout on the Gros Ventre River, Wyoming.)

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  1. Please notice everyone which political party is proposing all this destruction and neglect of our environment. Republicans are NOT your friend if you care about wildlife.

  2. They really are not looking towards a better future for sportsman and conservation. This bill on top of the one that will close 9 federal fish hatcheries really is going to cause an impact on local economies and the sport we love.

  3. What has TU done to persuade appropriators to modify the current legislation?

    Who are they talking to on the Hill?

  4. The Republicans and Democrats may not be the best in the world. I’ll stand by fishing as the greatest sport ever played. But if they decide to sign this into law after we lobby our butts off, then they don’t deserve to be in office, Republicans or democrats. Of course we hear very little about Obama so we hear very little about where he actually stands on these topics. As far as I know he could be the one pushing this thing through. So as far as blaming this all on the Republicans, I’ll take it a step further and say Republicans and Democrats are both choosing to put this thing through before thinking of the long term effects. They stopped thinking of the little man a long time ago.

  5. The Obama administration has made some serious mistakes in terms of their budget priorities but for the most part the anti-conservation/environmental stuff has come directly from the Republicans.

    I would caution however that it is not all Republicans that favor this and some, including the author of the H.R. 1 stuff that directly impacts most federal conservation spending. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), who is Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that overseas Interior & Environment spending, has been a strong partner in previous efforts to protect our natural resources and is without a doubt doing his best to limit the damage of HR1 while battling the misguided tea party and the ‘cut-everything’ faction of his party.

    It would be nice to get some direction and see targeted outreach in congressional districts where TNC and TU membership can make a significant difference in elections but most enviro-orgs are too scared of appearing partisan to launch an effective grassroots operation. Both TNC & TU should have the capacity to inform members: which congressional districts have representatives that could be persuaded, how many TU/TNC members live in these districts, what the local impact of this legislation would be, the best method and who to contact, etc. Would be nice to see it happen.

  6. After reading these thoughtful comments, I am starting to believe that more people are starting to come to the same conclusion that I am.

    For starters, I will say that in the recent past I was a huge Obama supporter. Now I’ve come to realize that we truly have a one-party system. Republicans and Democrats are two dogs barking at each other, yet they both serve the SAME master – corporations. Instead of taxing the top 20% of the country that owns 85% of the wealth to close budget gaps, they instead choose to squeeze the middle and lower classes even further, and loosen environmental protections. This bill is just one example (of many) of the madness and cruelty of the decision-makers in this country.

    They claim we are “broke” but the American War Machine is untouchable…. Instead we are gutting the Clean Air Act, reducing the power of the EPA, reducing funding for conservation efforts, and facilitating Monsanto’s effort to control the world food supply by allowing them to plant their GMO seeds without hesitation, restriction, or concern. It makes me wonder if any of our government officials and corporate CEOs care about their children. Because I’m scared as f$#k for my own.

    All that being said, I will also say that I am a vegetarian and I FULLY support all hunters and fishermen. In fact I wish everyone who ate meat hunted and fished for it. A mere glance at the environmental impact of factory farming is just sickening. Taking a creature from its natural habitat to sustain your life is the best possible way of living (or alternatively, owning/raising your own).

    Awareness is the key to reform. When we point fingers at each other (Republicans and Democrats) we are playing into the game the real masters want us to – namely, we don’t see our true foe, whom we should be united against. The top 20% that own 85% of the wealth, who do not think they have enough of the financial pie. Enough is enough. We do not need to cut funding for ANY social or environment programs. We need tax reform and responsible spending. None of our leaders, Democrat or Republican, have been willing to do this so far.

  7. When the Earth has become sick and the fish and the Animals are dying – there will come fourth a tribe of people from all the nations, creeds and colors of the world, and they will put their faith in deeds, and not in words, to make the land green again, and to restore balance once again to our planet. These brothers and sisters shall come together to live again in Harmony with the Earth Mother, and speak of Love as being the Healer of the Children of the Earth, and they will learn to live again as Brothers and Sisters of the Earth. They will be called “Warriors of the Rainbow”, protectors of the environment.

    -Cree Prophecy and others
    Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island

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