|The Honorable Tracy Stone-Manning
Bureau of Land Management
|The Honorable Camille Touton
Bureau of Reclamation
|The Honorable Stephanie Pollack
Federal Highway Administration
|The Honorable Michael Regan
Environmental Protection Agency
|The Honorable Rick Spinrad
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
|The Honorable Mike Connor
Assistant Secretary of the Army
for Civil Works
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
|The Honorable Martha Williams
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
|The Honorable Randy Moore
U.S. Forest Service
Re: Federal Agency Coordination and Strategic Stakeholder Input regarding Fish Passage Funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
Dear Director Stone-Manning, Commissioner Touton, Acting Administrator Pollack, Administrator Regan, Administrator Spinrad, Assistant Secretary Connor, Director Williams, and Chief Moore:
The undersigned hunting, fishing, wildlife conservation, landowner organizations, and scientific societies are writing to urge a sustained and high-level commitment to a coordinated implementation of the historic federal investment in fish passage and aquatic connectivity provided in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to ensure the greatest benefit to our nation’s fish, rivers, streams, and communities.
We appreciate the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in convening federal agencies and stakeholders to chart a path forward for the coordinated and efficient use of the approximately $2 billion in BIL funding for aquatic connectivity. Freshwater fish, like brook trout, need access to upstream habitat to spawn, access food, and escape predators. Anadromous fish, like salmon and steelhead, migrate upstream as adults to spawn while juvenile fish must travel back downstream to the ocean to feed. Throughout the U.S., fish habitat is fragmented by culverts, dams, and other water control structures leading to declining fish populations, Endangered Species listings, and lost recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing opportunities.
Restoring aquatic connectivity at the watershed-level creates thriving fish populations, builds resilience, and allows access to cooler habitats as streams warm in the face of climate change. Partners across the nation, including many of the signatories here, are undertaking restoration projects for fish with significant co-benefits for communities including reducing and mitigating flood damage, improving water quality, and providing recreational opportunities leading to thriving local economies.
We urge a sustained commitment at both the agency leadership and staff levels to develop a shared strategic vision for achieving watershed-level connectivity through BIL aquatic connectivity funding and an efficient process for implementation. We also urge you to develop a robust stakeholder engagement process to ensure that the greatest conservation and community benefit will result from this investment. A patchwork approach to spending this funding is unlikely to organically yield the watershed-level connectivity that is needed to address the scope of this nation-wide challenge for fish and aquatic organisms and to ensure these projects result in the greatest benefits for communities. Further, a lack of coordination in engineering review and permitting processes across agencies will significantly delay on-the-ground project implementation. A well-coordinated multi-agency design and permitting process will greatly accelerate the collective ability to realize transformational gains from this once-in-a-generation funding opportunity.
We recognize that this cross-agency coordination to implement funding will require a great deal of work and ingenuity. We stand ready to provide support as you move forward.
Thank you for your consideration.
American Fisheries Society
American Fly Fishing Trade Association
American Sportfishing Association
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.)
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
Camp Fire Club of America
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Fly Fishers International
National Wildlife Federation
North American Falconers Association
Orion: The Hunter’s Institute
Public Lands Foundation
The Nature Conservancy
The Wildlife Society
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Wild Salmon Center