The bipartisan package of bills would prioritize recreation on federal lands and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund
Today the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance S.556, “The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015,” which would protect and enhance public access for hunting, fishing, and target-shooting on federal lands. The legislative package would require federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting and that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service keep lands open to these activities. The bill also includes reauthorization of two key conservation programs.
“Lack of access is one of the major barriers to sustaining our uniquely American heritage of hunting and fishing—one that powers local economies and provides local jobs,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, who testified before the committee in support of the Sportsmen’s Act back in March. “We’re eager to see this legislation move forward and empower our federal land managers to make these assurances for the next generation of sportsmen and women.”
The Act mandates that, barring an emergency, publicly accessible hunting, fishing, and shooting areas cannot be closed without consultation of state fish and wildlife agencies or public notice. “For recreational fishermen, guides, and outfitters who drive spending in their local communities, the weather and water conditions can be unpredictable—but access to public waterways and boat ramps shouldn’t be,” says Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Other provisions would allow the vehicular transport of safely secured bows and crossbows within federal parks and promote the use of volunteer hunters for wildlife management.
First introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Martin Heinrich in February 2015, the legislation also deals with reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act.
“It is just as important to uphold the public’s ability to access key lands and waters as it is to conserve them, so we thank Committee Chair Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell for including compromise language for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of our nation’s most popular and successful conservation programs, in the bill,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 is a path forward for funding conservation programs that enhance fish and wildlife habitat and secure public access for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. We appreciate the committee’s commitment to advancing their portion of this important legislation.”
Hunting, fishing, and conservation groups are calling for both chambers to make floor time for a comprehensive sportsmen’s package as soon as possible, and certainly before the end of the 114th Congress.