Supporting the Formation of a Mississippi River Basin Fishery Commission

Number 2020-10

WHEREAS, the Mississippi River Basin is the fourth largest watershed in the world, and the largest watershed in North America, draining all or part of 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The watershed measures approximately 1.2 million square miles and covers 41% of the continental United States; and

WHEREAS, the Mississippi River and its tributaries comprise one of the largest and most valuable ecosystems in the world, with robust and varied fish and mussel species and populations. The Mississippi River Basin is comprised of six sub-basins: Upper Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee-Cumberland rivers, Lower Mississippi River, Missouri River, and Arkansas-Red-White rivers; and

WHEREAS, the Mississippi River Basin has insufficient inter-agency collaborative planning, implementation, and evaluation to accomplish shared management goals for the successful long-term management of inter-jurisdictional fisheries in the Basin, and inadequate planning and execution of an integrated scientific research agenda for the Basin’s fisheries and ecosystem; and

WHEREAS, invasive species pose one of the biggest threats to the health of the Mississippi River Basin, and of those invasive species, Asian carp are currently the most problematic and hardest to control, manage and eradicate; and

WHEREAS, the United States Congress, in Section 1039 (b) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA), charged the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), to work in coordination with the Secretary of the Army, the Director of the National Park Service (NPS), and the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to lead a multiagency effort to slow, and eventually eliminate, the spread of Asian carp in the Ohio River Basin and Upper Mississippi River Basin; and

WHEREAS, Congress appropriated funding for Asian carp prevention and control in the Ohio River Basin and Upper Mississippi River Basin in 2015, and then appropriated $25 million in funding in 2020 for such prevention and control for the entire Basin; and

WHEREAS, these multi-agency efforts are coordinated through the existing Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) partnership, an organization of 28 state fish and wildlife departments organized in 1991 as a partnership to improve management of inter-jurisdictional fish and other aquatic resources in the Mississippi River Basin; and

WHEREAS, MICRA works closely with the multi-agency partnerships in the Mississippi River sub-basins to develop an annual Monitoring and Response Plan and annual project reports for USFWS funded projects in the Mississippi River Basin; and

WHEREAS, once funding is appropriated by Congress, it flows very slowly to the sub-basins and individual states and there is much uncertainty on a yearly basis as to how much funding each sub-basin and state will receive for ongoing and planned projects, as well as personnel delegated to combat invasive species, including Asian carp. Additionally, funding appropriated to the USFWS for Asian carp management and control is appropriated as base operational funding, therefore the USFWS keeps a large portion of the appropriated funding for administration of the programs and agency field operations; and

WHEREAS, a more direct funding mechanism to provide financial assistance to the states to implement priority Framework projects in support of implementation of the National Asian Carp Management and Control Plan is needed to distinguish these appropriations from USFWS base agency appropriations, expedite the funding process to disseminate funding more rapidly to the states in the Mississippi River sub-basins, and to improve collaborative, inter-agency efforts to prevent and control the spread of Asian carp; and

WHEREAS, the time has come for a Mississippi River Basin Fishery Commission to be formed to provide a more efficient and effective approach to controlling Asian Carp populations in the Mississippi River Basin than is currently taking place and to provide effective coordinated fisheries management and scientific research for the Basin; and

WHEREAS, the Mississippi River Basin Fishery Commission would provide a permanent formal structure for cooperative inter-agency planning, implementation, and evaluation of management actions for shared inter-jurisdictional fishery resources, and would assume the coordination efforts now being performed by MICRA; and

WHEREAS, it is anticipated the Department of Interior will be the governmental host department, and the USFWS would continue to play a role in coordination of this process; and

WHEREAS, the Mississippi River Basin Fishery Commission would provide for a formal commitment and increase state agency and administration commitments to cooperative fisheries management and research, and Asian carp management and control efforts.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation, at its Annual Meeting assembled June 12, 2020, calls for the creation of a Mississippi River Basin Fishery Commission; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Commission be modeled after existing similar commissions already in existence, particularly, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (charged with bi-national sea lamprey control), and have a primary focus upon inter-jurisdictional fisheries management, aquatic nuisance species management, eradication and control, and necessary research to support fisheries and aquatic nuisance species management efforts; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that this Commission’s authority not interfere with existing authorities of individual state fish and wildlife agencies and departments.