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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