Settle the Shutdown

Many segments of the U.S. economy are being affected by the current federal government shutdown, and the nation’s $115 billion recreational fishing economy is no exception. Because Congress and the Obama Administration have been unable to come to an agreement on the Nation’s finances, anglers throughout the nation are unable to access their favorite fishing holes, and as a result thousands of small businesses that depend on access to federal lands and waters are suffering.

All across the country, facilities owned and operated by the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and Army Corp of Engineers are closed to the public. These closures aren’t even limited to terrestrial properties like Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon. For example, law enforcement personnel are stopping boaters from entering the marine waters within Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park in Florida. That’s right, even swaths of open ocean are off limits during the federal government shutdown.

Apparently not allowing anglers to enjoy time on the water is considered an “essential” function during the shutdown.

Access to public lands is critical to the nation’s sportfishing community. While not often thought of in economic terms, outdoor recreation – including fishing – is a tremendous economic driver, and much of this activity takes place on federally-owned property. The sportfishing opportunities provided within these properties support numerous businesses including lodging facilities, restaurants, guide services, and bait and tackle shops, to name a few.

All told, sportfishing on federal lands supports over 100,000 jobs, provides $984 million in federal taxes to the federal government and contributes $13.8 billion to the Nation’s economy each year.

Because of the government shutdown, anglers all across the country have had to cancel trips, which means no spending on hotels, guides, lodging, or new equipment. All these lost expenditures add up and are crippling many fishing-dependent businesses and the jobs they provide.

In addition to lost access, the impacts to conservation are considerable. Every day that passes represents a minimum of $2 million that doesn’t get spent on sport fish restoration programs, federal fish hatcheries that don’t meet their schedules for fish production and the inability of thousands of federal conservation employees to do their job and an even greater number of volunteer fishery conservation efforts that fall by the wayside. The total cost to fishery conservation is incalculable.

Unfortunately, an end does not appear in sight. Rather than working toward a solution, both political parties appear to be digging in to their positions even further and pointing the blame at the other side.

Please go to www.KeepAmericaFishing.org and send a letter to the President and your Members of Congress saying it is time to stop the shutdown and get the nation back on its financial track so resource conservation can move forward and the public can once again enjoy its public trust lands.

Mike Leonard
Mike Leonard is the Ocean Resource Policy Director at the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), based in Alexandria, Virginia. ASA is the sportfish...