Wicker Advances Sport Fisheries Legislation

Published 10:40 am Friday, September 3, 2021

By James L. Cummins

Mississippi is very fortunate to have U.S. Senator Roger Wicker representing our great state and nation. He has championed the conservation and sportsmen’s agenda since he was elected to Congress in 1994. He grew up in Mississippi’s outdoors and values the important lessons and experiences people gain from it. He has consistently represented the interests of hunters, anglers, and gun owners by supporting policies that protect our Second Amendment rights, promote conservation, minimize burdensome or unnecessary regulations, and expand access to public lands and waters.

Like me, he values the importance of Mississippi’s waters–whether to boat, fish for recreation, catch a mess for a fish fry, or just get away from everyone else during the pandemic. Earlier this year, Senator Wicker introduced the Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act of 2021–a critical bill that will sustain the most significant funding for state-based fisheries conservation–in the U. S. Senate. It passed the Senate Commerce Committee on June 16. While moving it through Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Wicker worked to safeguard the fund by ensuring that funding intended to increase access for recreational fishing and boating is not required to go through a burdensome approval process.

On August 10, the Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a long talked about infusion of funding to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. It will not make the headlines, but this conservation bill was included within this large infrastructure legislation. Now the House of Representatives will need to act before it comes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The Trust Fund is currently funded entirely by federal excise taxes paid on fishing equipment including tackle, motorboat and small engine fuel, electric motors, and other equipment purchased by anglers and boaters. The bill will reauthorize the Trust Fund and ensure more than $650 million is provided annually to fund state-based programs for sport fish conservation and habitat restoration, infrastructure for boating access and on-the-ground, state-driven fisheries conservation programs.

Additionally, it will provide for well-managed fisheries for the American public and secure a bright future for the $23.6 billion fishing and boating industry while ultimately improving the efficiency of the Sport Fish Restoration Program. In 2020, nearly $743 million was generated by the Trust Fund from fishing and boating-related excise taxes.

I commend Senator Wicker for his leadership on this critical legislation that will secure the future of our fisheries, that is so important to Mississippi and the rest of the nation. Ensuring robust funding for fisheries conservation and boating access is a top priority for many Mississippians. Now, this crucial conservation bill has cleared some major hurdles towards becoming law. Thanks to Senator Wicker’s efforts this summer, Mississippi’s hunters and anglers can feel confident that the state’s outdoors and wildlife will have the backing it needs to thrive for years to come.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their web site is www.wildlifemiss.org.