March 29, 2007
Dan Wisniewski (608) 698-8680
Laura Hewitt (608) 250-3534
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
MADISON, Wisc.—Trout Unlimited applauded Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin, for introducing a bill today that would create a new fisheries and stream-habitat restoration program as part of the conservation title of the Farm Bill.
“Sen. Kohl’s bill would provide $60 million each year to implement important fish habitat and stream restoration projects” said Dan Wisniewski, chair of Trout Unlimited’s Farm Bill Work Group. “This program is a key component of Trout Unlimited’s Farm Bill platform and we are grateful for Sen. Kohl’s leadership and look forward to working with him to make sure his bill is included in the larger Farm Bill reauthorization.”
Scheduled to be reauthorized later this year, the conservation title of the Farm Bill is the single, largest source of federal money for conservation efforts on private lands, which cover two-thirds of the American landscape. Despite its tremendous potential, Wisniewski said, the Farm Bill has not traditionally been a significant source of funding for fishery restoration projects. In fact, he noted, Trout Unlimited’s research has found that only 4.5 percent of current Farm Bill funds directly support restoration of fish habitat. Sen. Kohl’s bill would begin to close that gap.
“There simply is no downside to anything that helps our nation’s water quality. This effort is good for fish and the local economies that benefit from anglers,” said Senator Kohl. “The fisheries community, including anglers who contribute over $116 billion to the U.S. economy annually, has recognized the loss of habitat as a major threat to the health of sport fish populations all across the country.”
“Many of the most environmentally sensitive farmlands are those bordering streams and rivers,” said Laura Hewitt, the Madison-based coordinator of TU’s Watershed Programs. “A new fisheries program would benefit a diverse array of imperiled fish species from brook trout in the Midwest to high-altitude species such as cutthroat trout in the Rocky Mountains.”
Kohl’s program would be voluntary, providing cost-share and incentive payments to landowners. A ranking mechanism would be used to prioritize projects and would give priority to those that benefit at-risk species. Existing partnerships, such as Trout Unlimited’s Driftless Area Restoration Effort and the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, could provide invaluable input to guide the program.
“We certainly hope members of the House and Senate agriculture committees will include this new program in the Farm Bill,” Hewitt said. “This is a winning proposition for sportsmen, fish and landowners.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation group. It boasts over 150,000 members from coast to coast.