Senate lawmakers met today to consider legislation with provisions to conserve quality fish and wildlife habitat and to enhance recreational access to public lands. TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh testified at a hearing of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in support of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, championed by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and a strongly bipartisan group of cosponsors.
“Hunting and angling will continue to thrive so long as the federal government continues to invest in the outdoor recreation business plan: improving access and conserving habitat,” said Fosburgh. “The legislation before the committee today excels on both fronts, and helps to ensure that future generations of Americans will continue to have opportunities to enjoy our federal lands.” Since 2012, three bipartisan sportsmen’s bills have failed to reach the President’s desk, due to partisan politics and gridlock, and the TRCP hopes to see the most recent version move forward quickly with strong bipartisan support.
The Act, which was introduced in the 114th Congress on Feb. 5, would first require that federal land managers consider the impact of land-use decisions—including travel management and energy development—on hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities. The bill further clarifies that lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management should be considered open for these activities, unless they are specifically closed. “Better planning at a landscape level on federal lands will ensure that both development and outdoor recreation can coexist,” said Fosburgh.
A provision often referred to as Making Public Lands Public, which has garnered significant bipartisan support as a standalone piece of legislation, is also a part of the package. It requires that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund monies be made available to establish and expand recreational access to federal public lands. “Tens of millions of public acres currently have inadequate access, and as ownership patterns in the West change, the problem is getting worse,” said Steve Kline, TRCP director of government relations, adding that another provision in the bill would help prioritize access projects and the potential expansion of recreational opportunities. “The Hunt Unrestricted on Natural Treasures (HUNT) Act seeks to identify landlocked public lands and plan ways in which access to those lands might be improved.”
The bill would also reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act which, prior to its expiration in 2011, had leveraged strategic federal land sales to fund 39 priority conservation projects, including many that expanded sportsmen’s access to world-class hunting and fishing opportunities.
In February, the TRCP signed a letter to the Senators showing community-wide support for the bill amongst 47 groups, including Boone and Crockett Club, Ducks Unlimited, Coastal Conservation Association, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and Trout Unlimited.
“The TRCP’s mission is simple but powerful: to guarantee all Americans a quality place to hunt and fish,” said Fosburgh. “That is why we are proud to testify in support of this bill today.”
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