May the peace that comes with this season fill you and your families throughout the coming year, and may your outdoor endeavors, no matter what they are and no matter where they take you, come with the many pleasures our Sportsman’s Paradise provides.
And, after what happened in Washington last week, it looks like those pleasures could be enhanced in the coming years. It comes from the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill worked out in both houses of Congress.
Sportfishing groups heralded the move by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, to include omnibus spending provisions directing federal fisheries managers to fund independent studies — free from federal surveys — covering reef-fish stock assessments in the Gulf of Mexico.
Shelby’s obvious target is red snapper, but includes all other species that live in places other than natural reefs, a years-long restriction that has excluded studying artificial reefs and offshore oil and gas platforms that provide substantial reef-fish habitat.
This $5 million provision alone should produce more accurate red snapper numbers and could lead to expanding recreational fishing seasons in the federal exclusive economic zone (federal waters).
Shelby went an important step further in that it pushes state waters for Louisiana, along with Mississippi and Alabama (currently three miles) to nine miles, which matches the state-waters boundaries currently owned by Florida and Texas.
Another provision studies the existing red snapper allocation between private, for-hire and commercial sectors.
The Center for Coastal Conservation, the American Sportfishing Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership lined up to suggest these moves should pay big dividends for coastal and offshore fishermen and the businesses across the Gulf states that benefit from the these activities.
There was more in the omnibus bill than correcting fisheries’ deficiencies and inequities.
There’s $10 million for Louisiana’s Coastal Area Program, notably for using dredged materials to restore our state’s coast inside the state’s Coastal Master Plan.
And in the middle of duck and goose seasons, the omnibus bill contained increased funding for habitat and conservation.
Ducks Unlimited gave a shout-out for the bill’s $35 million directed to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, and the reauthorization that interest from the Pittman-Robertson Fund investments annually go to NAWCA. That fund is derived from a tax on all hunting items. Other provisions authorize $450 million over three years for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and upped conservation tax incentives.
Votes by the U.S. House and Senate should come before the elected leave for the Christmas holiday.