House committee passes bipartisan fish habitat legislation

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The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources passed a bipartisan bill Wednesday that authorizes a public-private partnership to conserve and restore fish habitats nationwide.

The National Fish Habitat Through Partnership Act, introduced by U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman, R-Va., and Marc Veasey, D-Texas, would codify the National Fish Habitat Partnership, which funds habitat restoration projects such as dam removals, stream bank stabilizations and invasive plant removal.

The legislation would enhance the program by providing congressional approval, ensuring more funding goes toward restoration projects and allowing a broad group of stakeholders to identify funding priorities, according to the American Sportfishing Association.

“The sportfishing industry is grateful to the House Natural Resources Committee for passage of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnership Act, which now moves to the House floor for consideration,” Chad Tokowicz, ASA inland fisheries policy manager, said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will enhance coordination among federal, state, tribal and private initiatives that support healthy fisheries and create more opportunities for anglers to enjoy their favorite outdoor activity.”

The bill was introduced in March in the U.S. House and Senate. The bipartisan legislation earlier this week received a hearing in the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife. Rep. Wittman testified.

“Healthy waterways and fish populations are absolutely critical to providing clean water and sustainable fisheries,” Wittman said. “This legislation will protect and restore aquatic communities around the nation through public-private partnerships to promote conservation. Our nation’s recreational anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on our economy. It is critical that we properly maintain this sector, incorporating the needs of our recreational and commercial fishermen.”

Also during the hearing, the committee approved the Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act, sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine. H.R. 3596 establishes a grant program to support coastal working waterfronts.

Reps. Garret Graves, R-La., and Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., included an amendment to ensure that recreational fishing and marine businesses are included in the program.

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