It was an interesting year for fish and wildlife up here in the upper Great Lakes. A year that at times raised hopes, only to squash them flatter than a dead possum on a back country road.
Example: Efforts to stop the leaping Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes got a huge boost earlier this year when a report showed that separating the Chicago Waterway System from the Great Lakes is achievable and affordable.
Follow that up in the summer – when Congress actually agreed on something and passed legislation that calls on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hurry up and finish their plan to stop the carp and other invasive species from transferring back and forth between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River.
Then…Doh! The Corps tells Congress that it essentially cant speed up their efforts – and will not perform what Congress authorized them to do. Meanwhile…carp keep jumping and swimming towards Lake Michigan.
Another example: As the year began, hopes were high that a Farm Bill would pass Congress. The Senate passed a solid bill that would provide a balanced set of benefits for farmers, ranchers and wildlife. And then…
Doh! The House sat on the sideline and decided to let the Farm Bill expire and leave farmers, ranchers and wildlife out in the cold. No worries…we have next year right? There is this thing called the fiscal cliff? Perhaps you have heard of it. The Farm Bill will be the first to fall off this cliff – dropping fish and wildlife faster than an anvil towards massive cuts.
Last example: Senator John Tester from Montana, a life long sportsman, introduced the popular wildlife conservation and pro-hunting and fishing Sportsmen’s Act of 2012. This was a common sense piece of legislation that enjoyed tons of support from both sides of the aisle. All was right in the world as it moved toward passage.
It was killed over a Senate rule technicality that prohibited a fee increase. The crazy fee increase? $10 bucks. Yep. $10 bucks, or the increase of the cost of a federal duck stamp from $15 to $25. You can ask Senator Jeff Sessions (who was chiefly responsible for shooting this down) why he went against all the sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts in his home state of Alabama.
It was that kind of year.
Amongst all the depression, there were positive stories for fish and wildlife in 2012:
–The Roadless Rule was upheld protecting hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness;
–The holy waters of the Au Sable River in Michigan was saved from oil and gas drilling;
-Passage of the RESTORE Act, a much-needed victory that will help restore our Gulf Coast Vanishing Paradise. Specifically, this will send billions of dollars in civil penalties to the Gulf Coast for restoration and economic recovery in the wake of the BP oil spill. This will create the largest wildlife restoration and adaptation fund in history;
–More hunters, anglers and people went outdoors to enjoy our fish and wildlife and connect with our natural resources; and
See, that’s pretty good, right? However, we can do better. In fact, we must do better.
Lets hope that 2013 brings hope for fish and wildlife and not more squashed road kill.