The Sportsmen’s Act: Time to Get It Done

Legislation which would help to protect fishing and hunting heritage through conservation, education, and access: The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012, is still struggling to make it through congress. And while it has been voted to be blocked, it is not too late, writes Chris Wood and Larry J. Schweiger in a current op-ed. However, it needs all of our support.

Read more in the extended entry.

The Sportsmen’s Act: Time to Get It Done

By Chris Wood and Larry J. Schweiger

If you hunt or fish, you should expect better from the U.S. Senate. Last week, the Senate had an opportunity to pass a collection of bills known as the Sportsmen’s Act—one of the most significant pieces of hunting and fishing legislation in a generation.

The bill would create or reauthorize programs that protect and sustain our fishing and hunting heritage, and the $646 billion in annual economic activity associated with the outdoors. The bill was fully funded, and then some, by hunters through an increase in the price of duck stamps. Still, 44 Senators, 43 Republicans and one Democrat, voted to block the bill for arcane budgeting reasons—even though the bill would actually reduce the federal deficit. With time quickly running out on this Congress, it was a major setback for hunters and anglers.

Here’s what those Senators voted to block:

  • The North American Wetlands Conservation Act, our nation’s most effective wetland conservation program
  • The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which combines public and private funding to support habitat restoration and protection
  • The National Fish Habitat Action Plan, which supports regional partnerships that enhance and restore fisheries
  • The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, which enables federal land managers to sell lands with low resource values and acquire those with quality habitat and fishing and hunting access
  • A program to dedicate a portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to securing access for fishing and hunting.

If you fish or hunt, or own a business that depends on fishing and hunting, you would have benefited from this legislation.

According to a 2011 study by the Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 90 million Americans fish, hunt or watch wildlife. Those 90 million-plus people spend over $145 billion on those activities, supporting millions of jobs around the country. In addition to supporting the economy, hunters and anglers generate revenue for conservation through purchase of licenses and taxes on fishing and hunting equipment.

Organizations like ours invest millions of volunteer hours each year to protect and restore the habitat that supports fishing and hunting. The Sportsmen’s Act would leverage our contributions on a national scale so the next generation of Americans could enjoy the same opportunities we enjoy today. The Senate has put at risk a legacy of better hunting and angling for our kids.

Sportsmen’s organizations have many supporters in Congress. More than 300 members of Congress belong to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, which is co-chaired by the author of the Sportsmen’s Act, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).  Yet a bill that we desperately want has been needlessly blocked by partisan bickering as the precious days go by. The parties need to come together and get the job done.  

It’s not too late for the Senate to regroup, pass the Sportsmen’s Act, and reaffirm its commitment to America’s sporting heritage.  But time is short, and so is the patience of America’s anglers and hunters.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. Larry J. Schweiger is the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/stevezakur Stephen Zakur

    I suppose their plea is a little more eloquent than mine. Well said.

  • Beau Beasley

    Many thanks to Chris Wood and Larry Schweiger for putting forth a well reasoned argument to work together for benefit of all hunters and anglers. I hope this bill passes and that it offers more Americans the opportunity to hunt and fish. We collectively need to do all we can to restore and acquire public lands and public access when ever and where ever possible.

  • CK

    I an an environmentalist and I staunchly oppose this legislation. It would be better named the Anti-Wilderness Act than the Sportsmen’s Act.

    Here is what Wilderness Watch, a grassroots environmental/conservation group has to say about HR 4089, aka The Sportsmen’s Act:

    “HR 4089 would give hunting, fishing, shooting, and fish and wildlife
    management top priority in Wilderness, rather than protecting the
    wilderness character and wilderness values, as is currently the case.
    This bill would allow endless, extensive habitat manipulations in
    Wilderness under the guise of “wildlife conservation” or for providing
    hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting experiences. It would allow
    the construction of roads to facilitate such uses, and would allow the
    construction of dams, buildings, or other structures within
    Wildernesses.

    Specifically, section 104(e)(1) strips away the Wilderness
    Act’s prohibitions on the use of motorized and mechanized vehicles,
    motorboats and aircraft, other motorized equipment, and structures and
    installations for any activity related to hunting, angling, recreational
    shooting, or wildlife conservation. For example, this would allow for
    any hunter, angler, or recreational shooter to drive their ATV in
    Wilderness as long as they were engaged in one of these activities.
    While the sponsors of the bill have stated this isn’t the law’s intent,
    an amendment to the bill to make certain this wasn’t the result was
    opposed by the bill’s supporters and defeated in a House vote.”

    To me, the harms created by this bill greatly outweigh the supposed benefits. The best hunting and fishing I’ve experienced has always been in wilderness, away from roads and facilities.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brennan.sang Brennan Sang

      CK, The HOUSE bill was an awful bill, but when the senate took it up they made big changes to the bill. TU supports the SENATE version of the bill, not the HOUSE version.

      This would only be the second step in this process though. If we manage to get the senate bill passed, there would be a committee formed to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

      • CK

        KC and Brennan, I understand that if the Senate bill passes there would
        need to be reconciliation between the two houses of Congress on the
        different versions of the bill. I’m just not confident that the Senate
        is more likely to demand that the anti-wilderness provisions be stripped
        out than the House is likely to demand that the provisions stay in any
        reconciled version of the bill.

    • KC

      HR 4089 is a different bill (with the same name). The provision you mention here is not in the Senate bill, S. 3525.