The final month with Congress in D.C. before the elections, September was largely focused on extending current government funding and avoiding a shutdown with a new budget not yet passed before the fiscal year starts in October. Any action on legislation for the remainder of the year will now take place during the lame-duck period between the election and the start of the 118th Congress in January.
With the federal government’s fiscal year ending on Sept. 30 and no annual spending bill yet passed into law for the 2023 fiscal year, Congress voted on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to extend existing funding levels until Dec. 16.
Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President and CEO Land Tawney was appointed this month to serve on the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, which provides recommendations to the federal government, through the departments of Interior and Agriculture, that benefit wildlife resources; encourage partnership among members of the public, conservation groups and federal, state, tribal and territorial governments; and support fair chase recreational hunting and shooting sports.
Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act
On Sept. 22, this legislation was introduced by Reps. Maria Salazar (R-FL) and Donald McEachin (D-VA) H.R. 8977, and Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) S. 4927. It would create a grant program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for projects that take children fishing, with priority given to underserved communities. BHA was among several of our partners who endorsed this legislation that would increase access for the next generation of anglers to get on the water. The grants would offer funding for recreational fishing opportunities as well as education on the conservation of our fisheries.
Sagebrush Conservation Framework Announced
Also On Sept. 22, the U.S. Geological Survey released “A Sagebrush Conservation Design Framework to Proactively Restore America’s Sagebrush Biome,” in cooperation with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This report showed that a staggering 1.3 million acres of sagebrush habitat are being lost annually.
Alongside our partners, BHA released a statement. “The loss and degradation of sagebrush habitat is something hunters have been witnessing for far too long," said BHA Conservation Director John Gale, "and we're committed to implementing solutions with our partners to restore these critical landscapes and address impacts that we’re seeing to a wide range of wildlife species. We can – and must – do more, and this analysis and mapping data gives us a way to apply limited resources to the places that need them the most.”
Sagebrush was once the most widespread vegetation type in western North America, spanning one third of the continental United States. Today it is one of the most imperiled. Legislation introduced earlier this year by Sen. Ron Wyden, the North American Grasslands Conservation Act, would implement a new strategy and grant program to assist in the conservation and restoration of grasslands and sagebrush shrub-steppe ecosystems.
Abandoned Hardrock Mines and Good Samaritan Legislation
On Sept. 29, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act (S. 3571). This important bipartisan legislation led by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Jim Risch (R-ID) would allow Good Samaritan entities such as state agencies, local governments and nonprofits to clean up abandoned hardrock mine sites without assuming future liability. Currently, Good Samaritan groups who want to volunteer to restore these abandoned mines and improve water quality as well as fish and wildlife habitat would be liable for any future pollution from the site.
With thousands of abandoned mine sites leaching toxic metals like arsenic and the source of acid drainage, these sites represent the largest source of pollution in the United States and threaten our lands, waters and wildlife. It is critical that legislation like S. 3571 be advanced to contribute to solving this crisis.