" Keep America Beautiful"
U.S. Congress states, that "recreational fishing" is traditionally one of the most popular outdoor sports in America, with more than 45 million participants of all ages, in all regions of the country. Recent economic figures, show that this favorite pastime pumps $108 billion annually into the national economy. Additionally, over 1.2 million jobs, approximately one percent of the entire national civilian work force are related to "recreational fishing" in some manner. It is those facts and figures, plus many more, that has lead to the introduction of new legislation by the U.S. Congress. This bill entitled the "Freedom to Fish Act" (H.R.3104) is designed to ensure that all federal regulations promote open access for recreational fishing to the maximum extent practicable on all federally contolled waters. Additionally, it will ensure that "recreational fisherman & fisherwomen" be actively involved in any regulatory procedures that impose restrictions on their access to places to fish. It will also ensure that whenever access to fishing places is restricted, that the restricted areas be as small as are scientifically necessary to provide for the conservation of the fishery resource. By my definition, "recreational fishing" is what my grandfather taught my father and my father taught me and I taught my children. I can remember, it all started with a cane pole, a cork dobber , black line with a hook. Today's equipment has changed like any other sport, but the common thread between yesterday's recreational fishing and today's recreational fishing was that there was always rules (limit, size, seasons) we had to abide by. Although, these rules have changed from time to time, it was the responsibility of the recreational fisherman/women to stay informed. In many cases, violation of these rules ended with severe penalties including the lose of the privilege to participate in this great American pastime. These rules have guided us for years and are still very successful, contrary to what some of the environmental extremist want you to believe. This is where I start to become very upset at the thought of anyone opposing this new piece of legislation called the "Freedom to Fish Act (H.R.3104), but there are organizations that have established goals to do just that. I have determined that the leading group in this endeavor is called "The Ocean Conservancy" and according to its website has more than 120,000 members nationwide. It is based in Washington D.C. (I wonder why), with regional offices in California, Florida and Virginia, with a staff of 64 and operates on an annual budget of approximately $7 million. As I surfed through their website, I came across a page entitled "Take Action". After some close scrutiny of this page, I found a very carefully worded letter this group had composed. Their intent with posting this document on their website was to encourage the readers to use this letter to respond to their elected officials and ask them to oppose the "Freedom to Fish Act". They made this letter writing campaign relatively simple for the reader. All the reader was required to do was provide personal information about themselves and "The Ocean Conservancy" would fax the letter to their elected officials for them. This document can be found by going to: http://actionnetwork.org//campaign/StopFFA Being interested in where this group received the bulk of their funding, I continued to dig a little deeper into the bowels of this organization. I soon found out that "The Ocean Conservancy's" has numerous partnerships which they call "Conservation Partners". Additionally, I discovered many of the supporting partnership names very familiar. One in particular that I would like to discuss. I have fished since I was old enough to remember, but after I turned 18 years old (legal drinking age in N.Y.), our fishing trips always included an ice cold six-pack of beer. I have been drinking the same brand ever since. According to this brewing company's TV commercials, it still delivers its product by horse (Clydesdales) drawn wagon with a "Dalmation" setting along side of the driver (you must know which one I mean). About this time I started to have some "flashbacks" which made me a little "queasy". The thoughts of those cold brewskies we drank while on our fishing trip, and to think that a portion of the profit from the sale of that six-pack would be used to help abolish "recreational fishing". But folks, thats exactly what's happening. By going to their website (hint:Clydesdale/Dalmation) you will actually be able to find the "Freedom to Fish Act" opposition letter composed by "The Ocean Conservancy". Immediately, I fired off a letter to their CEO in St Louis, MO and about ten days later received a "sugarcoated" response filled with a lot of corporate "grandstanding" about all their environmental achievements. Additionally they state: "We specifically do not endorse their campaign against the Freedom to Fish Act", but the real truth is the fact that they have made this infamous opposition letter part of their website, therefore are encouraging readers to contact their elected officials and vote this bill (H.R.3104) down. It sounds like they have been caught with their pants down. It's mindboggling to think that in today's day and age with all the drugs and crime that an organization can muster the power and finances to bring one of America's favorite pastime to it's knees. Please tell me what other activity in this country is more rewarding, than to take a kid fishing. I would like to ask Mr. Roger Rufe (President) "The Ocean Conservation", what are your follow-up plans for all these kids, when you take the recreational fishing from them. My suggestion to you, Mr. Rufe is to start making plans to return to the island of "Atlantis" west of Gibraltar where you will feel at home and be sure to take the owners of those famous "Clydesdales" with you. Its obvious, that you have been out of the water too long. Please write your elected officials and tell them to disregard " The Ocean Conservancy" and vote "for" the "Freedom to Fish Act" and keep America's favorite pastime intact. "God Bless America"
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