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Those hostile to fishing just won’t quit

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You’d think they’d get the message – these anti-fishing advocates that try to make an issue even when they’re told there is none.

However, groups that are transparently anti-fishing, for example the Center for Biological Diversity, have continued their attacks. And, that fact is a reminder that we in boating and fishing are seeking a congressional end to their madness.

Specifically, I’m referring to the Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Sports Protection Act that is in both chambers of Congress. S. 838 and H.R. 1558 were introduced by the respective chairs of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Thune (R-SD) and Representatives Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Mike Ross (D-AR). But we need to put some heat on Congress to move the bill.

How did we get here? In August 2010, five groups including the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the EPA to ban all lead in fishing tackle and ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act. This included sinkers, jigs, weighted fly line and components that contain lead such as brass and ballast in a wide variety of spinners and stick baits. It took only four days for the EPA to deny the ammunition provision because it’s specifically exempted under the law. Not so for fishing tackle, however. So the call went out for all of us in boating and fishing to request the EPA to dismiss the petition. We and many others responded by sending more than 43,000 objections to the EPA and, in Nov. 2010, EPA sided with the fishing community and denied the petition. The EPA held the requested ban was scientifically unjustified and outside its jurisdiction. Logically, that should have ended the attack. It didn’t.

Late last year, again the anti-fishing groups submitted a new petition claiming the elimination of lead in tackle would protect waterfowl. But the EPA determined lead had virtually no impact on waterbirds and rejected the second petition. Now, despite the EPA twice finding a lead ban is scientifically unjustifiable, the groups behind the petitions have filed suit challenging this decision in court. Enough is enough.

Clearly, the time has come to legislatively protect our boating and fishing interests from unwarranted and burdensome regulation. Enter S. 838 and H.R. 1558. These bills will amend the act to clarify the jurisdiction of the EPA with respect to certain sporting good articles, ensure that any future regulations on fishing tackle are established based on scientific data, not unjustified petitions, and exempt lead in fishing tackle in the same way ammunition is already exempt.

Can we get these bills passed? Likely not without a grassroots push. Despite the fact that S. 838 has 27-cosponsor bipartisan support and is assigned to the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, history reveals the Senate passed only 3 percent of all its bills in the 2009-10 session. No reason to expect more in the 2011-12 session.

On the House side, H.R. 1558 has an impressive 164 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle with six serving on the Energy & Commerce Committee where the bill is assigned. That’s good news, albeit against a background that the House only passed 4 percent of all its bills in the 2009-10 session.

It’s time to stir the pot and ask your two senators and your representatives to support these important bills that ensure agency decisions based on scientific data and not unjustifiable petitions, and prevent the federal ban on lead fishing tackle. For more, go to: www.keepamericafishing.org.

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