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What’s being called "the biggest fishing story of all time" has set the angling world on fire in the past week.  The story stems from a White House task force assigned to rewrite management policy for the use of public waters of the United States.

The proposed policy has gone through two drafts.  The first of those drafts, put out last fall, made no reference to sport fishermen at all.    During public comments, fishing advocacy groups raised the issue with the task force.  The second draft of the document, released in December, did make several references to sport fishing–however, it also included troubling language threatening to impact where we fish. 

"It sets up this huge, top-down bureaucracy," said ESPN Outdoors Writer Robert Montgomery on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors. "It says, just like politicians, this is going to be a bottom-up thing with local groups setting policy.   But, adds they must be in keeping with the standards and procedures at the very top."

Those at the top are what have fishermen across the nation up in arms.  Among those installed by the White House to serve on the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force are representatives of a laundry list of groups who at best are indifferent to sport fishing and at worst would like to see all fishing banned.

"It is absolutely a threat," said Montgomery. "Part of the tactic of these groups is to create a problem, create crises and then say that’s why they’re acting."

Montgomery says much of the information driving this issue is the same information that has driven climate change policy discussions.   Much of the same information, some proven flawed, which has fueled the global warming debate, is also being used to advocate for federal oversight of water management.    

Sportsmen should also understand, while the name of the task force says "Ocean", the language in the documents produced so far extends to every body of water in the United States.

"It talks about creating policy for our oceans, our coastal waters, and the Great Lakes," said Montgomery. "Additionally it also talks about tributaries and as these documents have been created it talks about ‘…all waters that affect these other waters.’  It could go anywhere." 

Furthermore, the federal management could potentially remove the power of agencies like the West Virginia DNR to regulate fishing and place that power in Washington‘s hands.   Advocates for this far reaching oversight, are pushing to have all of this policy enacted by executive order.  A signature by President Obama cold make it law and circumvent any Congressional authority.    Montgomery theorizes that’s likely the point, believing any such sweeping change would be impossible through Congress.  

The light of day on the matter however has created a firestorm and could change the course if fishermen continue to press.  The White House has reportedly been in "damage control" mode ever since Montgomery‘s latest story (he’s written 10-previously on the subject) went viral.    The Obama Administration has put out two strongly worded statements in support of sport fishing.  Prior to the latest furor, the fishing industry had been clamoring for such statements, but their requests until now had fallen on deaf ears. 

"When all of this hysteria started, our fishing advocates were in Washington planning a marketing strategy on how to get anglers active and involved," said Montgomery. "As this started going viral, the phones started ringing off the hook.  Constituents were calling, governors were calling, it was crazy.   At this point I think all of them know what’s going on."

Anglers interested in stopping the effort are encouraged write or call their Congressional representatives and go here and made their comments known online.  

You can click here to read Montgomery‘s reporting on the Task Force’s work. 


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