Policy Outlook for 2018

AFS Policy Director Drue Winters

AFS had plenty of reasons to stand up for fish and aquatic resources in 2017. From the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts to conservation funding to the repeal of the 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS), the Society has been working to ensure that Congress and federal agencies consider the best available science when making policy.  All signs point to the need for continued vigilance in 2018. We will continue to monitor and engage on policy matters that affect the fisheries profession and ensure that our members have access to information and opportunities for individual engagement.

One of our most important efforts in 2017 was our work to oppose the repeal and replacement of the WOTUS rule.  AFS joined with the Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies and others in a sustained effort to highlight the importance of protecting wetlands and headwater streams to the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  At every turn, AFS has promoted the sound, peer-reviewed science that went into the development of the rule.  With a replacement rule anticipated in 2018, we will certainly continue our robust engagement on this front next year.

As the year ended, Congress was busy churning out tax legislation that had the potential to damage the financial health of graduate students and ultimately make it more difficult for our best and brightest students to pursue and complete their higher education.  If the provision had been included in a final package, students in many competitive master’s and Ph.D. programs would have been taxed on thousands of dollars in additional income. As members of Congress worked to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill in conference committee, AFS provided information to our members on the issue and encouraged them to contact their elected representatives to let them know how this provision would affect the fisheries profession. Before the holiday recess, Republicans released a tax package that maintained the tax exemption for tuition waivers. That is the power of making your voice heard on Capitol Hill!

There are many exciting opportunities for members to engage in the coming year.  AFS is excited to join with the National Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in support of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. A bill was introduced in December in the House of Representatives to amend the Pittman-Robertson Act to provide $1.3 billion annually to state fish and wildlife agencies to undertake significant, proactive conservation efforts for imperiled species. If enacted, fisheries biologists and other resource professionals will be able to address the serious peril that aquatic species face in light of habitat degradation, water quality impairment, rising temperatures and reduced water availability, and other existential threats.  This proposal could have additional benefits for the aquatic resource profession, including more employment opportunities in state agencies and in the private sector. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way the United States funds conservation of non-game species.  It’s also a great chance for members to work on their professional development by learning to conduct a field visit and working with our partners to host a member of Congress to tout the benefits of proactive conservation.  The AFS February policy webinar will focus on conducting effective field visits. Stay tuned for more information!

Members can access our previous online webinar, 2017 Policy Overview & 2018 Engagement Outlook, to learn more about the AFS policy program, our work in 2017, and our plans for engagement in 2018, including the formation of a special committee to examine efforts to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act.