The American Sportfishing Association(ASA) today announced its support for two bipartisan bills to help restore land and water surrounding abandoned mines that would otherwise threaten fisheries and nearby communities.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Amendments Act of 2021 and the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act of 2021 (RECLAIM) were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), and Reps. Cartwright (D-Pa.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), respectively. Collectively, these bills would reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) trust fund, which expires in September 2021, 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. These abandoned mines are potential sources of hazardous materials that can leak into nearby lakes, rivers 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’s important that we restore mine sites after their usefulness has ended. The bipartisan legislation that Reps. Cartwright, Thompson and Rogers have introduced will make sure federal funding is available to support healthy fisheries where past mining activity has left its mark.”
Since its inception, the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program has invested more than $5.7 billion in mitigating the 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,” said Chad Tokowicz, 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,” continued Tokowicz. “It’s important that Congress move this bipartisan legislation forward so future generations can enjoy the great outdoors without dealing with hazards of past development.”
Click here to read ASA’s 2018 position statement on mining.