Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council will meet April 4-5 and discuss conservation, stewardship and access.
NATIONWIDE — A federal council charged with advising the Department of Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on recreational fishing resources and boating activities will convene again during the first week of April. Members of the Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council are expected to review a report submitted by the FWS’s assistant secretary on access, conservation and stewardship.
The Conservation Stewardship and Outdoor Recreation report – officially the Interior Department’s Order 3347 – sets out to improve and enhance angler access to federal fishing lands and improve fish habitats, among other actions.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued the order on March 2, adding FWS’s assistant secretary must report to him “with specific recommendations to enhance recreational fishing, specifically regarding efforts to enhance and expand recreational fishing access.”
Details of the Interior Department order will be discussed at the April meetings. Council members could, after hearing the report, develop consensus-based recommendations of how federal agencies could “enhance and expand recreational fishing access.”
The council could also hear and discuss updates on other FWS programs, according to a Federal Register notice.
Those who want to participate in the meeting – which will take place in Washington, D.C. – must reach out to the council by March 30. Members of the public will be allowed to provide the council with input on the Interior Department order. Questions or comments could be council in advance – particularly for those who won’t be able to make it to the nation’s capitol to attend the two-day council meeting. (See Take Action section for contact information.)
Of course there is more to this meeting than an order seeking to “enhance and expand” access for anglers who wish to fish on federal lands – which, of course, could and would influence similar policies at the state and local levels.
The Interior Department’s management of federal lands dates back to Pres. Theodore Roosevelt’s Executive Order 13443. Roosevelt, through the order, directed the federal government to expand and enhance outdoor activities, which now, among other things, include boating and fishing.
What do we make of the Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council? How has the council fostered greater collaboration amongst the country’s anglers and boaters? What can anglers and boaters do to ensure the council is looking out for their best interests (if, only, on a federal level)?
Federal officials created the 18-member council in 1993, at around the same time as the country transitioned from Pres. George Bush to Pres. Bill Clinton.
“The council was formed in January 1993 … on aquatic conservation endeavors that benefit recreational fishery resources and recreational boating and that encourage partnerships among industry, the public, and government,” FWS staff stated in its Federal Register notice for the council’s April meetings. “The council represents the interests of the public and private sectors of the recreational fishing, boating, and conservation communities and is organized to enhance partnerships among industry, constituency groups, and government.”
The Secretary of the Interior appoints all 18 members to the council.
“Council members are directors from state agencies responsible for managing recreational fish and wildlife resources and individuals who represent the interests of saltwater and freshwater recreational fishing, recreational boating, the recreational fishing and boating industries, recreational fisheries resource conservation, Native American tribes, aquatic resource outreach and education organizations, and tourism,” FWS staff stated in the Federal Register notice.
In 1994 the council released its Recreational Fisheries Stewardship Initiative, which outlined threats to fisheries. The council also released several position papers and reports in the mid-1990s, addressing federal aid for sportfishing restoration and how to enhance recreational fisheries programs.
Council members also helped direct recommendations on the federal Recreational Fishery Resources Conservation Plan in 1996 and establish a partnership for fisheries conservation in 2002.
Boaters received a comprehensive guide to clean water initiatives, as part of the Clean Vessel Act, in 2008 – courtesy of the Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council.
A list of Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council accomplishments can be found online at fws.gov/sfbpc/accomplishments.html.
Can the council do more for the nation’s anglers and boaters? What can state and local entities do to complement the federal council? These questions and more should be directed to members of the council.