Conservationists and sportsmen are applauding the U.S. Senate's passage this week of the Surface Transportation Bill with the RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunity, and Revived Economies of the Gulf States Act of 2011) included as an amendment.
The RESTORE Act directs that 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster be used to rebuild the economies of Gulf Coast communities that were impacted by the spill and to restore the natural resources.
The total fines could be between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. If the transportation bill with the RESTORE amendment attached should win final passage in the House of Representatives, it will stand as the largest single instance of conservation funding in American history.
It could mean billions for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to restore ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, barrier islands, dunes and coastal wetlands damaged by the BP spill.
The legislation still must pass the House of Representative, and in final form in the House and Senate. The American Sportfishing Association and Vanishing Paradise, a consortium of conservation organizations, are both urging anglers to contact their legislators and encourage strong bipartisan support of the bill. To send a message go to Action Center, Southeast Region at www.keepamericafishing.org or log on to www.vanishingparadise.org.