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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan February 4, 2009

Stimulus has money to help fish, off-roaders

In a speech on the House floor on Feb. 3, 2009, Republican Rep. Mike Pence sounded off about what's in the stimulus bill before Congress.

"In legislation before the Senate this week, $20 million for the removal of small to medium-sized fish passage barriers or $25 million to rehabilitate off-roading trails for ATVs is not going to put this economy back on track," Pence said. "And, it was exactly that kind of wasteful government spending that resulted in unanimous Republican opposition last week."

We wanted to check to see if the bill includes the money Pence mentioned. Some of our previous reports have shown that opponents of the bill have not been completely truthful about what's in the bill.

In this case, Pence is right.

The Senate report on the bill, as of this writing, includes $20 million "for the removal of small- to medium-sized fish passage barriers," which means clearing barriers in rivers and streams to allow fish migration. It's part of an overall $190 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for habitat restoration projects that "accomplish ecological goals and provide employment opportunities in the local communities."

The report also says the projects can be modified to "achieve the goals of maximum job creation and most effective use of resources."

Similarly, the $25 million for recreation maintenance, "especially for rehabilitation of off-road vehicle routes," is part of an overall $135 million for the Bureau of Land Management, which includes funding for trail maintenance, remediation for environmental and public safety hazards on public lands, and habitat restoration. This passage also allows for modification for "the goals of maximum job creation and most effective use of resources."

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A Democratic spokesman defended the funding when we asked about Pence's criticism.

"Preserving our national parks and preserving our wildlife don't seem to be unreasonable goals," said Rob Blumenthal, a Democratic spokesman for the Senate Committee on Appropriations. "These are ready-to-go jobs that will employ American workers."

The Fish and Wildlife Service said the work to remove fish barriers is "shovel ready" and includes projects like building bypasses around large dams and demolishing obsolete mill runs that date back to colonial times.

"There's going to be a lot of work for local contractors," said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Chris Tollefson. "We're talking about restoring native fish runs all over the country."

We'll let others decide if the projects are worthy or not. We should point out that almost any job the government pays someone to do is technically stimulating the economy by creating income and reducing unemployment, if only by the smallest amount. Also, the two projects combined account for not even 1 percent of the bill — more like .005 percent.

Nevertheless, $45 million for most people is serious money. When he made his remarks, Pence had his facts straight on what was in the legislation — $20 million for fish-barrier removal and $25 million for off-road trails. We rule his statement True.

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Stimulus has money to help fish, off-roaders

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