Conservation Report: Will the Gulf Lose the Oil Spill Fines?

Restore Act Needs Sportsmen's Voices--Now

Some $20 billion in fines from the Deepwater Horizon spill that should go to restoring fish and wildlife habitat in the Gulf could disappear into the nation's general treasury unless sportsmen get involved in the next few weeks.

BP is expected to be hit with the bill within the next six months for violating the Clean Water Act with the estimated 200 million gallons of crude oil pumped into the Gulf from its accident. Current law sends those fines into the general treasury, where it can be used for anything from bank bailouts to congressional medical insurance.

With a big push from the sporting community, a bi-partisan group of Senators introduced the RESTORE Act (S. 1400), which would dedicate 80 percent of any fines to helping restore damages to the Gulf ecosystem. It was roundly praised by hunting and fishing groups.

But if Senators don't act by the end of the year, the bill could be dead, and the money would instead fall into the federal treasury.

In addition to critical support for Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas coastal work and research, the formula agreed upon by the senators includes funding for critical projects designed to stop the continued erosion of the Mississippi River delta, the engine driving 80 percent of all Gulf fisheries, and a winter habitat used by an estimated 70 percent of all North American waterfowl.

While the bill originally picked up co-sponsors, resistance is coming from some senators of states far from the coast who want a share of the money - even though their states were not impacted by the disaster.

Sportsmen's groups are urging outdoorsmen to contact their senators today. You can find out how at contactingthecongress.org.

**Climate Change, State by State **

Sportsmen often wonder how climate change could impact habitat and fish and game populations where they hunt and fish. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides some state-by-state examples on its website. As the Service explains, these are broad snapshots of impacts to fish and wildlife in each of the states, but it is by no means a complete picture of changes on the way in each of those states.

When you're finishing checking your state at this site, be sure to go to two other sites compiled by a coalition of sportsmen's conservation organizations: Season End: Global Warming's Threat to Hunting and Fishing, (www.seasonsend.org/) and Beyond Season's End: A Path Forward for Fish and Wildlife in the Era of Climate Change (beyondseasonsend.org/).