WASHINGTON — A bipartisan legislative package introduced Feb. 4 in the U.S. Senate would increase public access opportunities and advance conservation and is drawing widespread support from prominent sportsmen’s groups, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP).
The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act (S. 1996), introduced by Sens. Kay Hagan and Lisa Murkowski, attracted a wide range of co-sponsors, including Sens. Mark Begich, John Boozman, Dean Heller, John Hoeven, Mary Landrieu, Joe Manchin, Rob Portman, Mark Pryor, Jon Tester and David Vitter.
“The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership supports the bipartisan sportsmen’s package led by Senators Hagan and Murkowski,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP president and CEO. “Sportsmen rely on both the conservation of important habitat and, just as important, reasonable access to that habitat to enjoy productive days afield. This package includes bills that achieve both of those goals.
“Hunting and fishing directly contribute more than $86 billion to the U.S. economy each year and support approximately 1.5 million non-exportable jobs,” Fosburgh continued. “Sportsmen also are integral to the broader outdoor recreation and conservation economy, which is responsible for $646 billion in direct consumer spending annually.”
The Senate legislation includes the following:
Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act (S.170), requiring federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting and requiring the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to keep BLM lands open to these activities.
Making Public Lands Public, requiring that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund monies be made available to secure public access to existing federal lands that have restricted access to hunting, fishing and other recreational activities.
Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013 (S.738), authorizing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow any state to provide federal duck stamps electronically.
North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization (S.741), reauthorizing through fiscal year 2017 NAWCA, which provides matching grants to organizations, state and local governments, and private landowners for the acquisition, restoration and enhancement of wetlands critical to the habitat of migratory birds.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization (S.51), reauthorizing NFWF, a nonprofit that preserves and restores native wildlife species and habitats.
Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act (S.1505), exempting lead fishing tackle from being regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (S.1212), enabling states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges.
Prominent sportsmen’s groups commended the bill.
“The Pope and Young Club, speaking on behalf of bowhunting, is excited to see the bipartisan support for the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014,” said Mike Schlegel, conservation committee chairman of the Pope & Young Club. “This act contains titles that address key issues of concern within the conservation community nationwide.”
“The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 would expand hunter access and enable active habitat management, including conservation of some of the nation’s most valuable federal lands,” said Becky Humphries, executive vice president of conservation for the National Wild Turkey Federation. “The National Wild Turkey Federation strongly supports this pro-sportsmen legislative package.”
“More than 140 million Americans participate in outdoor recreation activities, including hunting and fishing,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall. “DU appreciates the bipartisan effort of this bill in bringing to light the economic impact and importance of sportsmen and -women to the United States. We are also grateful for its inclusion of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which is an ideal model for successful private-public partnerships.”
“Bipartisanship requires compromise,” said Dr. Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “and this bipartisan bill encompasses many of sportsmen’s priority issues. While not all of our needs are addressed, we commend our Senate leaders for introducing legislation that speaks to the values — responsive natural resources management, conservation and increased access opportunities among them — that are central to our outdoor traditions.”