New Bill To Restore Gulf Fish Habitats
The new bill will ensure that funding gets used towards restoring fish and wildlife habitat instead of anything unrelated to the disaster.U.S. Coast Guard
A bipartisan bill was recently introduced in the House that will ensure that 80 percent of penalties paid by BP and others responsible for last year?s Gulf oil spill are used to help restore the damaged fish and wildlife habitats of the region, not for unrelated federal spending. The RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act of 2011 was introduced by U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) as lead sponsor, along with more than 20 other bipartisan leaders as joint co-sponsors.
?The widespread bipartisan support for the RESTORE Act in the House mirrors efforts in the Senate and is supported by hunters and anglers from across the country,? said Land Tawney, Senior Manager for Sportsmen's Leadership of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). ?We thank leaders in the House for their diligent efforts in introducing this bipartisan legislation, and we look forward to working with them to improve and pass a bill that will make this national treasure whole again.?
Nine Gulf senators have introduced a similar bill in the Senate, the RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act (S. 1400), which passed through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last month.
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force?a key federal and state panel convened by the White House?has also released its draft report calling for a significant new commitment to restore the vital resources of the Gulf Coast. The report also urged the dedication of oil spill penalties to the environmental and economic restoration of the Gulf, which is what the bills in both the House and Senate would accomplish.
?We praise the Task Force?s report calling for swift and far-reaching action to restore the Gulf Coast,? Tawney continued. ?The draft report highlights key issues that demand immediate attention to make restoration a reality. Sportsmen and women across the country are standing with Vanishing Paradise, hoping the final report outlines specific steps that can be taken in the near term to ensure the restoration of one of our nation?s most phenomenal resources. Recognizing the urgent need to translate words into action, we hope the final report will include specific steps that can be taken without delay to address the most pressing needs in the Gulf.?
The coastal wetlands surrounding the Mississippi River Delta provide crucial wildlife habitat that help Louisiana live up to its nickname as a ?Sportsman?s Paradise.? The delta provides a winter or stopover ground for 10 million migratory waterfowl each year, which accounts for up to 70% of the ducks and geese using the Mississippi and Central flyways. The delta also supports world-class salt- and freshwater fishing opportunities.
But sadly, this Sportsman?s Paradise is vanishing at an alarming rate. Nearly 1,900 square miles, an area the size of the state of Delaware, have disappeared since the 1930s, largely because of flood control and navigation projects that have isolated the freshwater and sediment from the Mississippi River from its deltaic wetlands, while allowing saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to intrude far inland. Every hour, an area of wetlands the size of a football field disappears. This habitat loss threatens homes, communities, nationally important economic interests?and world-class hunting and fishing opportunities.
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