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Gulf Restoration Highlight of New Transportation Bill

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership offered praise for votes today by both the Senate and House of Representatives that gave final passage to a new transportation bill that includes the RESTORE Act, a measure facilitating economic recovery and restoration activities in Gulf Coast regions affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act dedicates 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties charged to BP and other entities responsible for the 2010 disaster to rehabilitation of Gulf Coast resources and economies. Nationally, activities related to fishing support more than 1 million jobs and contribute almost $125 billion annually to the economy, with the Gulf region making substantial contributions to those totals.

“The RESTORE Act acknowledges the consensus priorities of recreational anglers throughout the Gulf and the values of sportsmen throughout the nation,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “Furthermore, the willingness by both our House and Senate leaders to advance this important measure testifies to that fact that conservation policy is fundamentally bipartisan. Sportsmen thank members of Congress for their support of the country’s conservation and recreation based economy and the outdoor opportunities important to us all.”

“Recreational fishing contributes $41 billion dollars in economic output in the Gulf Coast region annually and supports over 300,000 jobs,” said American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Michael Nussman. “The sport-fishing industry depends on healthy and abundant fisheries resources, and the RESTORE Act provides a tremendous investment in rectifying the damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as well as addressing historic deficiencies in resource management and conservation. We are extremely grateful that Congress has finally come together in bipartisan fashion to ensure that the penalties BP must pay will go where they should – for Gulf restoration.”

More than 10 million migratory waterfowl winter or stop over in the Mississippi River Delta, and the region hosts a singularly important commercial and recreational fishery – resources that have been severely threatened in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

“Today’s foresighted action by our elected leaders provides critical support as this challenged area regains its economic footing and works to restore our coastal resources,” said Jim Martin, TRCP policy council chair and conservation director, Berkley Conservation Institute. “The RESTORE Act facilitates the rehabilitation of the Gulf Coast and ensures that this unique ecosystem – as well as the valuable outdoor lifestyle it hosts – will endure.”

At the same time, however, the TRCP along with many of its partners expressed deep disappointment that a provision that would have provided two years of dedicated funding, at $700 million per year, for the Land and Water Conservation Fund was removed from the final transportation bill. The LWCF uses a portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas leasing to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and increase access and recreation opportunities for sportsmen and the general public.

The LWCF has helped conserve some of America’s most important fish and wildlife habitat and popular sporting destinations and played a crucial role in maintaining access for hunting, fishing and shooting. Congress, however, has consistently diverted LWCF funds from their intended purpose, most recently in a House appropriations bill, passed on June 28, which slashes LWCF funding by 80 percent to levels not seen since 1968.

“Loss of access is the No. 1 reason that hunters and anglers stop pursuing our passions,” said William H. Geer, TRCP climate change initiative manager. “Yet in addition to funding purchases that expand public access to hunting and fishing and conserving habitat for a range of fish and wildlife species, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is a valuable tool for ranching families and communities in maintaining the economic viability of some of America’s most important working landscapes. Sportsmen urge Congress to change course and ensure that the LWCF is strongly funded – for the sake of our nation’s lands, our economy and our outdoor traditions.”

Following today’s votes, the transportation bill moves to the White House where the president is expected to sign into law.

Read “The Gulf Spill Recreational Fishing Response Group: Recommendations for Resource Recovery,” a special report by the TRCP.

Logo courtesy of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

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