Congress Tries to Slow Big-Government Takeover of Public Waters

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Congress Tries to Slow Big-Government Takeover of Public Waters

Some in Congress are standing up for anglers and against a Big-Government power grab that would restrict public access to our oceans, Great Lakes, and even inland waters.

In the latest move in this high-stakes chess game, the House National Resources Committee has asked the Appropriations Committee to include language in each appropriations bill to prohibit funding for the National Ocean Policy (NOP).

"The Natural Resources Committee has undertaken oversight over this far-reaching policy and the lack of information provided by the Administration raises serious concerns --- particularly about the funding for the implementation of the policy and the negative impact on existing activities by agencies implementing the policy," wrote Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, chair of the Natural Resources Committee.

"The President's policy is especially alarming due to the fact it will not only affect the oceans and coastal areas, but also stretches far inland, following rivers and tributaries upstream for hundreds of miles."

Implemented without Congressional approval, the NOP provides the blueprint for a massive top-down bureaucracy that will oversee "spatial planning" of our aquatic resources, starting in offshore and coastal waters.

In other words, it will zone uses, telling us where we can and cannot fish, among other activities.

Stated intention is to reduce user conflicts. In reality the NOP is just one more attempt by this administration to control as much of our lives as possible, and, it if it is allowed to stand, will be death-by-a-thousand-cuts for recreational angling. Slowly but certainly, one fishery after another will be closed by federal edict, similar to what is happening now in California as the Marine Life Protection Act is implemented.

"As you know, a number of our colleagues have significant concerns with the National Ocean Policy, which was created through an Executive Order and without specific statutory authority," Hastings began in his April 2 letter.

"The increased bureaucracy created by the Executive Order is astonishing," he continued, and then listed the following:

• A 27-member National Ocean Council

• An 18-member Governance Coordinating Committee

• 10 National Policies

• 9 Regional Planning Bodies --- each involving as many as 27 federal agencies as well as states and tribes

• 9 National Priority Objectives

• 9 Strategic Action Plans

• 7 National Goals for Coastal Marine Spatial Planning

• 12 Guiding Principles for Coastal Marine Spatial planning

"In addition, the draft National Ocean Plan Implementation lists more than 100 outcomes, actions, and milestones for federal agencies to comply with beginning in 2011 and 2012," Hastings said.

This latest move to slow down the NOP steamroller follows an attempt by Hastings to extend the time for public comments on the policy by 90 days. When the Obama Administration refused, Hastings issued the following:

"President Obama issued an Executive Order imposing a new bureaucracy to zone the oceans that threatens to deter new economic investment, suppress job creation, restrict even recreational fishing, block energy development, and stretch far from the shore to affect farmers and inland communities.

"Given the high economic stakes, the vast amounts of new red-tape set to be unrolled, and the fact that some 15 agencies spent over two years devising this scheme, it's unreasonable that the Obama Administration won't allow the American people more than just 75 days to review and comment on it.

"This refusal to allow a thorough and open review of the plan to carry-out the President's Executive Order is another example of the Obama Administration prioritizing its job-destroying agenda over the livelihoods of Americans from coast to coast."

Meanwhile, a coalition of fishing organizations issued its comments regarding the plan on March 27, making essentially the same recommendations that it has been making since 2009, when the Obama Administration created the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, a precursor to the National Ocean Council.

Mostly, those requests on behalf of recreational fishing and the North American system of conservation funding have been ignored throughout the process that has followed. But occasionally bureaucrats have feigned interest in what the American Sportfishing Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and others have to say.

• Among those recommendations:

• Recognize recreational fishing as a priority use.

• Recognize that anglers and boaters are leaders in fisheries conservation through the excise taxes that they pay on equipment and fuel to fund the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund.

• Clarify the difference between recreational and commercial fishing.

• Improve data system for stock allocations.

"As a coalition of recreational fishing conservation organizations, we are deeply concerned with the current political climate surrounding our nation's waters. Recreational fishing and boating are longstanding American traditions with numerous benefits to offer our nation," said the coalition, which also includes the Center for Coastal Conservation, the International Game Fish Association, The Billfish Foundation, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

"We hope that you will consider our comments and incorporate changes to reflect our concerns in the final Implementation Plan."

While I admire the coalition for its relentless efforts to defend recreational angling by working through the system, I doubt that the Obama Administration will pay much attention to its concerns. The people in power now are pursuing an ideologically driven vision of the United States, in which Big Government rules and people should exist apart from nature, not as a part of it.

In short, they don't want us fishing, just as they don't want us drilling, don't want us eating fatty foods, and don't want us thinking for ourselves. The only way to stop them is to vote them out in November.

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