The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) has backed two bipartisan bills designed to restore land and water surrounding abandoned mines that would otherwise threaten fisheries and nearby communities.
The two pieces of legislation would reauthorise the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) trust fund, which expires in September this year, and make updates to provide additional resources for the improvement of communities around AML projects.
The AML Trust Fund was established in 1977 to require coal companies to pay a fee on each ton of coal mined in order to restore lands no longer in use. The ASA says that these abandoned mines are potential sources of hazardous materials that can leak into nearby rivers, lakes and streams, harming the ecosystem, including fisheries.
“Conserving, maintaining and restoring land and water resources are critical to healthy fish and wildlife populations,” said ASA President, Glenn Hughes. “To ensure abandoned mines do not further degrade fisheries habitat, it is important that we restore mine sites after their usefulness has ended.
“The proposed legislation will make sure that federal funding is available to support healthy fisheries where past mining activity has left its mark.”
Since its inception, the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Programme has invested more than $5.7 billion in mitigating hazards posed by abandoned mines. Approximately $616 million has been spent to clean up water hazards in communities across the country.
“Investments like these have helped to conserve and restore fish habitats and create additional opportunities for recreational access,” added Chad Tokowicz, the ASA’s Inland Fisheries Policy Manager. “As the advocate for the recreational fishing industry, it is our responsibility to help ensure that hazardous materials from abandoned mines do not impact our nation’s fisheries.
“Responsible development of our natural resources and restoring aquatic habitats to the benefit of the environment, economy and local communities are top priorities at ASA. It is important that Congress moves this legislation forward so future generations can enjoy the great outdoors without dealing with the hazards of past development.”