There is bad news to report from Washington. The politicians are meddling with the great outdoors.
They are holding millions of critical dollars hostage and are gambling with money that is not theirs. It belongs to the country's hunters and anglers.
The Office of Management and Budget recently recommended a series of cuts for the nations Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. If Congress takes their advice, some $34 million of much-needed cash will get ripped from the fishing and boating community.
It is the same story for the fund's predecessor. If Washington gets its way, the coffer designated under the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1936 will shrink by equally painful $31 million. It will be a hard hit to the hunting community and its conservation efforts.
To understand what this means, you need to understand how these two funds work. They are not like your typical taxpayer-financed checking account.
These funds are what we call "pay as you play." The money comes solely from hunters, anglers and boaters. Each time we buy most new products related to our sports, 10 percent of the bill is sent to the corresponding fund.
The cash is then apportioned to state conservation agencies in the name of fish and wildlife restoration, land management, education and access initiatives. Ours sports depend on this flow of money.
To see the good the dollars can do, drive across the Susquehanna River and check out Columbia's new boat ramps. The project was made possible thanks to the Boating Trust Fund.
If Washington's politics force us to lose the money we set aside for our sport, similar projects all across the country will suffer.
"This conservation trust fund, established in 1950 with the support of industry, anglers and state conservation agencies, is an outstanding example of what good government should be and is the backbone of the user-pay model of funding conservation in this nation," said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.
"It is essential that it remain untouched. The sportfishing and boating communities are ready to work with Congress and the Administration to solve this problem."
Unfortunately, our sports and the conservation efforts they spawn are caught in the political crosshairs. This could very well be yet another bluff by leaders desperate to be re-elected. Or it could be the first of a long string of cuts. Nobody knows what will happen in the battle that surely lies ahead. That's the problem.
Throughout their history, these two critical programs have pumped billions of dollars into our sports. The list of success stories they are responsible for and the recreational opportunities they've created is infinitely long.
As sportsmen and fans of the outdoors, it's our job to protect these programs. Get informed about what's happening. Pay attention to the fight that is taking place in Washington. And, most importantly, let your political leaders know your thoughts.
A good way to stayed tuned into what is happening is to go to www.KeepAmericaFishing.org.
The site is full of information about when Congress may act and how we can best fight for what is right.
This is our money, not theirs.
--Reach Andy Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org.