Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act Creates Conservation, Access and Opportunity
Formed by hunters and anglers who acknowledged the need to unite all wildlife and conservation interests, the National Wildlife Federation has been leading on critical issues that are a priority to sportsmen and women for nearly 80 years. Often this leadership is focused on protecting and expanding fish and wildlife habitat, but other times it’s about expanding access and opportunity for fishing and hunting.
In many ways, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363, formerly S. 1966) does both. This Senate bill, which could go to a vote any day now, incorporates several smaller bills written by both Democrats and Republicans to create what is truly a bipartisan bill — a very rare thing these days in Congress.The Bipartisan Sportsmen Act has broad support from numerous sportsmen and environmental organizations. The National Shooting Sports Foundation called it “simply the most important package of measures for the benefit of sportsmen in a generation,” and the Nature Conservancy wrote that, “this package of sportsmen and conservation bills represents a true bipartisan approach to the issues facing us on the ground today. … The Conservancy strongly supports the habitat title of this important sportsmen’s package. ”
Many of NWF’s state affiliates are also very supportive of the measure and have done work in their states to organize their constituent’s support of the bill.
“Through the efforts and hard work of the main sponsors Senators Hagan (D-North Carolina) and Murkowski (R-Alaska) and with the backing of the Congressional Sportsmen Caucus, decision makers in the Senate were able to put politics aside and create a bipartisan bill that will benefit wildlife resources, sportsmen interests and the places we fish, hunt and view wildlife,” said Richard Mode of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “Not only will the bill help protect and enhance the natural resource base in North Carolina that supports a $19 billion outdoor recreation industry in the state and which creates 192.000 jobs, but it will help us protect our sportsmen heritage, something you can’t put a dollar figure on. The bill shows that regardless of political affiliation, decision makers in the Senate can find things we can agree on: wildlife and the protection and enhancement of the special places we hunt and fish.”
There are many aspects of the Bipartisan Sportsmen Act that the National Wildlife Federation has pushed for and wholeheartedly supports, including several provisions to strengthen wildlife conservation.
- Extend conservation measures: Reauthorize appropriations to carry out approved wetlands conservation projects under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act through 2019, and also reauthorize and revise the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act through 2019. The measure would also permanently reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, which expired in 2011. This would bring back a “land for land” mechanism allowing the proceeds from Bureau of Land Management land sales to fund critical land conservation in the West at BLM conservation areas, national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, national trails, wilderness, and Wild and Scenic Rivers.
- Provide more access to public lands: Allocates 1.5% or $10 million, whichever is greater, of Land and Water Conservation Fund funding to secure public access to existing federal public lands.
- Increase ease of access for conservation funding provided by hunters: Grants the Secretary of the Interior permanent authority to authorize any state to issue electronic duck stamps and sets forth state application requirements.
Access and Opportunity
Several provisions of the Act are designed to encourage recreational fishing, hunting and shooting on public lands. NWF is also supportive of these provisions of the Act for several reasons, but most importantly because these activities inspire and fund wildlife conservation.According to three recent reports on fishing, hunting, and sporting activities; anglers and hunters contribute significantly and positively to the American economy, with angling contributing $115 billion in annual economic impact, and hunting contributing $68.4 billion. Angling supports more than 828,000 jobs and hunting more than 689,000. These jobs are sustainable and cannot be outsourced. In addition, anglers and hunters provide considerable funding for conservation. Fishing generates $657 million annually in license and fee sales, $403 million in private donations, and $390 million in taxes on tackle and motorboat fuel. Hunting generates $796 million in license and tags, $440 million in donations, and $371 million in taxes on firearms and ammo. The countless volunteer hours spent by sportsmen and women to enhance wildlife habitat is also very valuable. Much of this funding and volunteer effort directly benefits wildlife conservation and access for outdoor recreation, which benefits all wildlife enthusiasts, not just people who enjoy fishing and hunting.
- Protects and enhances hunting and fishing on public lands: Requires federal public land agencies to facilitate the use of and access to federal public land for hunting, recreational fishing, and recreational shooting. Also requires Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land to be open for hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting, unless the managing agency acts to close lands for reasons outlined in the Act.
- Access and opportunity for recreational shooting: Amends the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to support the development of public shooting ranges.
- Clarifications for waterfowl hunting: Sets criteria in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to clarify what constitutes “normal agricultural practices” so that crop owners and hunters alike know exactly when and where it is appropriate to hunt migratory game birds on agricultural lands.
Now is the time to take action to get this bill passed. Please contact your Senators today and ask them to pass the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014.
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