As Vice-Chair of the Congressional Sportsman's Caucus, the largest bi-partisan caucus on Capitol Hill, I've worked hard in Washington, D.C. to protect the rights of Wisconsin's sportsmen and women.
Congressional Sportsmen's Week
The House of Representatives held the first ever Congressional Sportsmen's Week from September 24 to October 3, 2007. Through Congressional resolutions, news conferences, committee hearings, and other events, the House focused that week on the importance of hunting, fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation in Wisconsin and across the country.
As anyone who has been in Wisconsin during deer hunting season knows, sportsmen and women are a vital part of our state's economy. Every year, 34 million sportsmen and women in America contribute $260 billion directly and indirectly to the nation economy.
Outdoor enthusiasts represent not only an important part of our economy, but our heritage as well. They are a driving force in many conservation efforts - from protecting our remaining open spaces for all to enjoy, to combating global warming and keeping our rivers and lakes clean.
While Washington politics often seem far removed from the woods and rivers of western Wisconsin, elected officials can have a direct impact on the activities of America's outdoor enthusiasts. Sportsmen's Week was dedicated to making sure that Congress helps, not hinders, the ability of sportsmen and women to enjoy our great outdoors.
During Sportsmen's Week, a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee, of which I am a member, held an oversight hearing on invasive species. Invasive species represent one of the largest problems facing wildlife habitat around the country, costing billions of dollars each year in prevention, treatment, and restoration.
Several measures have been introduced in Congress to address the problem of invasive species, including a bill I authored to combat these problem species in and around National Wildlife Refuges. The REPAIR Act would provide grants to help landowners partner with refuges and non-profit groups to prevent invasives from spreading into refuges. Additional action is needed to ensure these lands will continue to shelter wildlife and the hunting and fishing opportunities they support.
Farm Bill and Conservation
In late July, the House of Representatives passed its 2007 Farm Bill, a broad piece of legislation that affects much more than just agriculture. Because our farm and food policies play a major role in protecting important wildlife habitats, improving Farm Bill conservation programs is one of the top priorities for the sporting community.
For years, federal conservation programs have been consistently underfunded. Conservation programs benefit everyone, providing cleaner air, cleaner water, and enhanced habitat for wildlife. That is why I introduced the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment. In addition to modernizing the farm safety net and making farm programs more equitable, this proposal would have made an historic investment in conservation. While the House failed to pass the most meaningful aspects of my proposal, our reform coalition was instrumental in pressuring the Agriculture Committee to provide an additional $4.5 billion for conservation.