From: National Wildlife Federation
Published October 21, 2004 04:57 PM

Florida Sportsmen Call for Stronger Action on Wetlands Conservation

Hunters and Anglers call on politicians to endorse new conservation agenda TALLAHASSEE — Over 100 Florida hunting and angling groups, bait and tackle shops, outfitters and fishing guide operations from Key West to Pensacola are calling on elected officials and candidates to stop delaying and start acting on plans to protect, defend and restore wetlands throughout Florida and the rest of the United States.


By signing onto the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Conservation Blueprint for America’s Wetlands, sportsmen and women from around the state are urging elected officials to make wetlands conservation a top priority.


“Our elected officials have been courting sportsmen as never before. But it’s not enough that they talk the talk. It’s time for them to walk the walk with a real agenda to advance wildlife conservation,” said Steve O’Hara, long-time board member of the National Wildlife Federation and Florida Wildlife Federation. “Wetlands are vital for the health of our fisheries, our waterfowl and other game species, especially in Florida where hunting and fishing are central to our way of life.”


NWF’s blueprint provides an action agenda for Congress and the administration to re-direct efforts toward more responsible, cost effective actions that protect wetlands and use tax dollars wisely. For example, the sportsmen who signed onto the blueprint are asking for full funding for programs that encourage farmers and other property owners to restore wetlands on their property, such as the Allapattah Ranch Project, which will restore and protect approximately 15,370 acres of agriculturally-impacted wetlands and associated habitat through the US Department of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program.


“Florida’s hunters and anglers have always been committed to maintaining and restoring a diversity and abundance of wetlands,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. “Now they are sending a clear message that they want the administration and all other politicians to stop just saying that they are pro-sportsmen without embracing a meaningful agenda that will ensure the future of our state’s wildlife and of our sport.”


In the past few years, the Clean Water Act and the protections it provides for our nation’s wetlands has come under assault, according to NWF. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have issued a damaging policy directive that leaves 20 percent of the nation’s wetlands — or 20-million acres — unprotected by the Clean Water Act.


“The administration must rescind this policy directive immediately in order to even begin to achieve its goal of a no net loss of wetlands,” said O’Hara. “This will ensure common, baseline protections for all of America’s wetlands, including those in the Florida panhandle where protections don’t currently exist.”


The blueprint lays out 10 essential steps for the future of wetlands, which include the creation of a comprehensive “Marshall Plan” to restore major freshwater ecosystems such as the Everglades and putting an end to federal subsidies that promote the large-scale destruction or degradation of wetlands like the past channelization of the Kissimmee River. Above all, Florida sportsmen are asking that elected officials avoid impacts to wetlands whenever possible.


“Our wetlands are in more trouble today than they have been in decades because current federal policies increasingly expose them to pollution, dredging and filling,” said Fuller. “Sportsmen are calling on their government to put into action thoughtful and ambitious plans to maintain, restore and conserve America’s wetlands.”


Protecting wildlife through education and action since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization creating solutions that balance the needs of people and wildlife now and for future ge nerations.


Contacts: Jerry Karnas: 850-597-2747 Kim Jones: 202-365-1581 Manley Fuller 850-656-7113


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