TU Leader Defends Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Funding Before Senate Committee
Manager, Media Relations
3/11/2004 — Washington — Charles Gauvin, president and CEO of the national conservation organization Trout Unlimited, today offered testimony before a Senate committee supporting the renewal and improvement of the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund.
The fund will expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2004, and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is reviewing competing bills, both of which would reauthorize and amend the fund, to determine which parts of each will make it to the Senate floor for final debate. Gauvin was one of six witnesses who offered their visions for the funds future, and the sole voice from the conservation community invited to testify.
The coal fields have sustained us through some of our greatest national challenges, Gauvin told the committee. Now it is time to give back to those lands, and those who live on them, to see that they are restored.
Among his recommendations, Gauvin called for the fund to be renewed, taken off-budget so it is no longer subject to the annual appropriations process (when its funding may be diverted to other programs), and authorized in 25-year intervals rather than the shorter extensions in the bills under debate.
Senate action on each of these suggestions will show the affected communities that it takes the threats to their health, lifestyles and landscapes very seriously, said Gauvin.
Gauvin also recommended an increase in funding for the Clean Streams Initiative, the part of the fund dedicated to making possible state and local collaborations to address acid mine drainage, the single largest threat to water quality in the highlands, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Streams Initiative is currently funded at $10 million annually; Gauvin called for the funding level to be set at $25 million.
The Senate is in the process of figuring out if and how to fix the way the country approaches the environmental burden of abandoned mines, said Gauvin. And it has seen the progress Trout Unlimited staff and members in the Appalachian highlands have achieved by teaming well-grounded science with on-the-ground effort.
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North Americas leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 125,000 members in 450 chapter nationwide.