Each of us in western Wisconsin is keenly aware of how important the environment is to our daily lives. I am proud that I have made conserving our natural heritage one of the hallmarks of my work in Congress. Since arriving in Congress in 1996 and until 2010, I served on the House Natural Resources Committee and have established leadership in many areas, particularly on sportsmen's issues, protecting the Mississippi River, and advocating for our National Wildlife Refuge System.
Ron tours the Mississippi River with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Third Congressional District borders more miles of the Mississippi River than any other in the country. As such, the river is vital to our economy through tourism, recreation, and commercial transport; to the health of our natural environment; and to our very way of life. That is why I founded and co-chair the Upper Mississippi River Basin Congressional Task Force. I also authored the Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act, legislation calling for the development of a coordinated, public-private approach to studying and reducing nutrient and sediment runoff in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. The bill passed the House of Representatives last year and I plan to reintroduce it this year.
Additionally, I have championed funding for conservation programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the organic industry to reduce agriculture's impact on the river and the Gulf of Mexico.
National Wildlife Refuge System:
Home to three national wildlife refuges, western Wisconsin benefits from billions of dollars these federal lands generate in economic activity. The Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is visited by 4 million people each year -- more than Yellowstone National Park. Yet the National Wildlife Refuge System has been critically underfunded for years, causing debilitating maintenance backlogs and loss of visitor access and services.
Seeing this unmet need, I founded the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus in 2006 to bring these issues to light and advocate for increased funding for the system. Due in part to the caucus's efforts and with new leadership in Congress, the Refuge System has recently seen the largest ever increase in funding. I also plan to reintroduce the Refuge Ecology Protection, Assistance, & Immediate Response (REPAIR) Act, which would combat the growing and costly problem of invasive species in the nation's wildlife refuges. This legislation has previously passed the House unanimously but has never seen floor action in the Senate.
National Parks Caucus:
I have been a staunch supporter of our National Parks system for years, taking my family backpacking in a different park each summer. This Congress, I am getting the opportunity to support the parks more directly as I serve as Co-Chair of the National Parks Caucus. Truly one of our nation's greatest treasures, the National Parks have been underfunded for years. This is a shame because the parks have proven to be sound investments for communities, jobs, and future generations. Research shows that every dollar invested in National Parks generates at least four dollars in direct economic impact--supporting approximately $13 billion of local private-sector economic activity and nearly 270,000 private sector jobs. I am determined to use my leadership role on this caucus to push for continued investment.
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act:
A life-long resident of La Crosse, I have always appreciated the beauty of these birds and understand the importance of preserving their natural habitat. This year, I reintroduced legislation, H.R. 1456, that would reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act through fiscal year 2017. This legislation will ensure the preservation of the natural habitat of migratory birds in countries throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Joint Ventures for Bird Habitat Conservation Act of 2011:
New legislation I've introduced this Congress, this bill will require the Fish and Wildlife Service to institute Joint Venture programs. Joint Ventures are voluntary partnerships made up of federal and state agencies, affected regional governments, private nongovernmental organizations and other private stakeholders that provide financial and technical assistance to support regional migratory bird conservation.
Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act of 2011:
The Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act of 2011, H.R. 1620, is a commonsense bill that will direct the federal government to take inventory over the land they own. By placing this information in one database, the government will be able to accurately undergo stewardship decisions because they will definitively know which land is under their jurisdiction.