Monday afternoon, on the White House lawn, President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, informally called BIF, will put $1.2 trillion dollars towards improving the Nation’s roads, bridges, and ports. But it also provides many benefits for fly fishing, the outdoor recreation economy, and conservation. So, while you may not agree with other portions of the bill or the politics of the bill, let’s focus on the victories for fish, wildlife, and conservation.
“This legislation is potentially transformational,” said Chris Wood, TU’s president and CEO. “It reflects the understanding—which TU has championed for years—that our natural landscapes and waterways are the most important part of the infrastructure that sustains us. And it directly tackles some of the biggest challenges to our infrastructure posed by climate change.”
Here are some of the key provisions in the bill that will benefit the outdoors for years to come.
What’s in BIF?
- Stream Barriers and Roads: The bill provides $1 billion for removing and replacing outdated road culverts that often prevent migrations of many aquatic species, including salmon and trout, as well as billions of dollars to support the removal, rehabilitation and retrofitting of dams. Further, $250 million will go towards improving or decommissioning thousands of miles of roads on U.S. Forest Service Lands. Runoff from poorly maintained roads is a serious concern for many species of fish, so this program will improve those conditions.
- Abandoned Mine Remediation: Abandoned mines are a major problem in watersheds across the country and heavily contribute to toxic water pollution. BIF reauthorizes the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, which funds clean up projects in trout streams from coast to coast, at $11 billion. Additionally, the bill directs $4.67 billion to address orphaned oil and gas wells.
- Wildlife Crossings: BIF provides $350 million for a pilot project to construct wildlife safe crossings on highways and roads to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
- Climate Resilience: $50 billion will be put towards climate resilience and weatherization, which will help communities prepare for extreme weather events. Included in this is more money for NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to conduct wildlife modeling and forecasting.
- Marine Ecosystems: BIF also will benefit many inshore and marine habitats. Included in the bill is $494 million for NOAA’s National Coastal Resilience Fund; $491 million for NOAA to provide funding for restoring marine, estuarine, coastal, or Great Lakes ecosystem habitat; and, $1.9 billion for Army Corps of Engineer aquatic ecosystem restoration projects.
- Reauthorizing the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund: and ensuring tat more than half a million dollars be used to by the states for local fish habitat conservation and access projects.
- Western Watersheds: Water issues continue to be controversial in much of the west, and this year was no exception. Many of the West’s largest reservoirs reached record lows this past year. This law will improve water security and invests $400 million in the WaterSMART program; $250 million for aquatic ecosystem restoration and protection projects; $300 million to implement the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan; and $1 billion for water reuse and recycling.
“Enactment of this legislation proves once again that there is bipartisan support for the type of projects that are critical to BTT’s mission of conserving bonefish, tarpon and permit as well as to the broader near-shore marine environment,” said Jim McDuffie, BTT President and CEO. “BTT looks forward to playing an active role in ensuring that funding from the infrastructure bill is utilized to advance science-based approaches to restoring and conserving coastal resources for the benefit of our fisheries and those who rely on them.”
“The road to achieving this conservation victory was neither smooth nor simple,” said Land Tawney, BHA president and CEO. “Yet our House leaders persevered. In the name of our public lands and waters, our fish and wildlife populations, and our shared outdoor traditions, American hunters and anglers have reason to celebrate this moment. And together we thank the House of Representatives for making it possible for us to achieve it.”
Politicians from both sides of the aisle came together and enacted a law that makes great strides toward restoring and protecting our outdoor environments.