Mississippi’s hunting season is just weeks away, and the Senate is moving closer to achieving a big win for our sportsmen and all who enjoy our beloved natural resources. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently passed the “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act,” a legislative package with a number of important recreation and conservation priorities. As a member of the committee, I voted in favor of the bill and hope it earns the approval of the full Senate soon.
More Shooting Ranges, Focus on Wetlands Protection
Hunting, fishing, and other wildlife sports are more than popular hobbies in our state; they are also family traditions, drivers of local economic growth, and well-known tourist draws. The “HELP for Wildlife Act” would remove unnecessary regulatory hurdles affecting these recreational pastimes, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of an Obama-era rule on sport fishing tackle. The bill would also promote environmental and conservation practices that do not require excessive federal intrusion, protecting our rich natural resources for future generations of Mississippi sportsmen. In addition, the bill would give recreational shooters more options for target practice with the construction of new public ranges.
The “HELP for Wildlife Act” also takes a sensible approach to safeguarding important ecosystems, encouraging public-private partnerships for fish habitat projects and authorizing the protection of wetlands. The loss of wetlands can have a profound effect on wildlife, flyways, and water quality. In Mississippi and elsewhere, wetlands serve as a critical natural barrier against storm surge and flooding. Under the bill, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act would be reauthorized for the next five years.
Recreational Fisheries Would Benefit From Better Data
More can be done to improve the experiences of our recreational fishers, who are often limited by outdated federal policies. I have recently introduced two bills to facilitate more local input and better information when it comes to shaping these guidelines. One of the bills, titled the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act,” would empower regional fishery management councils to use data from those who know the fishery the best – recreational fishermen – instead of relying solely on information from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration surveys. Catch limits should be based on sound data, and this bill provides more information to local decision-makers.
Another bill that I authored would support data-driven decision-making with the reauthorization of the “Integrated Coastal Ocean Observation System Act.” This legislation would have a broad impact, in addition to improving observing capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System is an expansive network that includes 17 federal agencies and 11 regional associations. It provides a host of valuable information for defense, commerce, weather, and coastal ecosystems, to name just a few areas.
These legislative items are positive developments for our sportsmen, and I hope to see them reach the finish line. Mississippians recognize the bounty of wildlife and nature that surround us. A balanced approach to recreation and conservation allows us to enjoy these God-given resources, and it helps reassure us that our children and grandchildren will enjoy them, too.