Yamaha Marine, along with trade and conservation organizations, worked last year during the 116th Congress to ensure the conservation of U.S. waterways, promote responsible angler practices and increase access to federal land and waterways. The legislation signed into law in 2020 and early 2021 is the result of efforts from many entities promoting conservation and sustainability while achieving access for fishing and boating.
“The legislative victories of 2020 prove that advocacy works,” said John O’Keefe, senior specialist, Government Relations, Yamaha U.S. Marine Business Unit. “They also prove that even in a difficult year there is room for bi-partisan agreement and consensus among groups that might not always see eye-to-eye.”
Three of the most significant bills signed into law in 2020 and early 2021 are the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, the Great American Outdoors Act and the Descend Act, all long supported by the recreational fishing and boating community and the result of many trips to the Hill to lobby the House, Senate and Executive Branch as well as strong advocacy efforts from the marine industry.
The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act aims to mitigate and remove marine debris, incentivize international engagement on marine debris and strengthen domestic waste management infrastructure to prevent the creation of new marine debris. The bill follows the success of the first Save Our Seas Act and allows for increased authority and funding to protect our nation’s waterways and coastlines from plastic trash. The law expands the ability for the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and local governments to capture plastic trash in municipal stormwater systems before it escapes into the surrounding streams, rivers, wetlands, and marshes.
The Great American Outdoors Act permanently funds the highly successful Land and Water Conservation Fund which, for the past five decades, has helped provide access to recreational areas, trails and waterways throughout the nation. Importantly for the sportfishing industry, the Great American Outdoors Act ensures that $15 million annually is dedicated to expanding public access for fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation. It also creates the “National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund.” This program will provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to improve trails, campgrounds, roads, visitor centers and other infrastructure.
The Descend Act, passed in early Jan., 2020, requires recreational (including charter boats) and commercial anglers to have on board a venting tool or descending device that is rigged and ready for use while fishing for reef fish in Gulf of Mexico federal waters. These devices allow anglers to practice successful catch-and-release methods that help ensure our fisheries are healthy and sustainable for future generations.
Additional bills signed into law in 2020 that serve to protect our environment while allowing for growth with the recreational boating and angling communities are: the American Conservation Enhancement Act, the Restore Our Parks Act, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Act, the Coordinated Ocean Observation and Research Act, the Digital Coast Act, the Amend Nutria Eradication and Control Act and the Protect and Restore America’s Estuary Program.