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Crapo, Cardin Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Fish Habitat

Would codify public-private partnerships in Idaho working to improve fish habitat conservation

Washington, D.C. – Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin today introduced S. 754, the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NFHCA), to leverage public-private partnerships and authorize annual funds for fish habitat restoration and protection projects supported by regional Fish Habitat Partnerships.

“Protecting, maintaining and improving fish habitats is crucial for jobs, recreation and sustainably healthy fish populations,” said Crapo.  “Our bill would codify the existing relationships between local and regional habitat conservation stakeholders and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and empower locally-based groups to support conservation efforts specifically benefiting fish and fish habitats.”

“Choosing to protect our natural resources is good for our environment and our economy. We need deliberate and targeted action to stem the loss of our precious aquatic resources and millions of related jobs,” said Senator Cardin. “Our bill takes a collaborative approach to encouraging healthier aquatic habitats as well as safer recreational waters for Americans to swim, boat and fish.”

“This bill will address a crisis-level loss of fish habitat by supporting the decade and a half-old National Fish Habitat Program to advance collaborative, locally-driven and community-supported conservation projects,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Anglers across America know that healthy fisheries mean success on the water and stronger outdoor recreation economies. We want to thank Senators Crapo and Cardin for understanding the importance of the sportfishing industry and we urge Congress to move this legislation forward.”

According to the most recent data available from the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation more than 35 million Americans participated in fish-related activities.  These recreationists spent over $46 billion pursuing these activities, contributing to millions of jobs in industries and businesses that support fish-related recreation.

The waters of North America are home to more than 700 species of fish, which are critical for maintaining the ecological health and balance of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems alike.  They play a key role in the food chain to a wide variety of bird, reptile, and mammal species including iconic American species like Bald Eagles, Grizzly Bears, Great Blue Herons, and Alligators.  The greatest threat to native fish species are the ecological impacts of habitat loss and habitat degradation. 

The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act would improve the availability of financial and technical resources to support local fish habitat conservation efforts by creating a National Fish Habitat Board to facilitate regional partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  NFHCA also better coordinates local efforts that will result in the greatest improvements to fish habitat across regional watersheds.

The bill would authorize funds over Fiscal Years 2020-2023 for the Department of the Interior to fund projects to conserve fish habitats, cover certain planning and administrative expenses, and provide technical and scientific assistance to the Board, Fish Habitat Partnerships and conservation project participants.  It would not impose costs on state, local, or tribal governments.

The NFHCA is supported by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Trout Unlimited, the American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Nature Conservancy.  The bill text can be found HERE.

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