Over the last week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and partners from the sportsmen’s conservation community worked closely with Congressional leadership to ensure that several funding priorities for the sportsmen’s community are included in the FY2018 Omnibus appropriations bill.
“The inclusion of provisions such as a fix to fire-borrowing, reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act with enhanced sportsmen’s access, improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and addressing disease risks for the benefit our nation’s wild sheep populations, are all victories for the outdoor conservation community as a whole,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “CSF and partners have been working closely with Members of the House and Senate to ensure that these crucial provisions are included.”
Top provisions that were successfully added to the Omnibus package include:
- Forest health and wildfire disaster relief. The forest health provision provides expanded and strengthened tools for forest management projects (e.g. categorical exclusion for wildfire resilience projects, streamlined environmental review for fire and fuel breaks, extending stewardship contracts to 20 years, etc.), and provides a comprehensive fix to end the damaging process of “fire borrowing.” The fire fix provision reverses a vicious cycle that frequently results from fire borrowing in years when the costs of fighting fires on federal lands exceed Congressionally appropriated funding available for the fiscal year. By allowing catastrophic wildfire to be treated like other natural disasters, this bill would prevent the negative ramifications of fire borrowing and provide federal land managers with additional resources needed to manage and care for our nation’s forest resources.
- Permanent reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), a modified land exchange program that facilitates strategic federal land sales by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to provide funding for high-priority conservation in the Western United States. This program advances local community, conservation, and recreation needs by addressing land ownership patterns that can cause problems for landowners, recreationists and public land managers. Part of the FLTFA provision within the Omnibus also increases access for sportsmen and outdoor recreation. The “Inaccessible Lands Open to Public Hunting, Fishing, Recreational Shooting, or Other Recreational Purposes,” provision within FLTFA allows BLM to acquire additional lands to increase public access in places where it does not currently exist. In addition, federal agencies would be required to consider the “Extent to which the acquisition of the land or interest therein will increase the public availability of resources for, and facilitate public access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities” when prioritizing land acquisitions under FLTFA. Federal agencies would also have expanded authorities to pursue strategic acquisitions adjacent to National Forest System lands and consider priority habitats when evaluating a potential acquisition.
- A fix to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for the purchase of firearms. This provision will establish new incentives and requirements for states and federal agencies to upload disqualifying criminal and mental health data to the NICS.
- A provision directing the Department of the Interior and Forest Service to identify and solve disease risks for bighorn sheep. Bacteria known to lead to pneumonia in wild sheep populations has been discovered in Alaska and is worsening with inattention, which makes this provision vital.
The Omnibus package was approved by the House on March 22, and is now headed to the Senate for a vote before tomorrow’s FY2018 funding deadline.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (13.89%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (12.50%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (59.72%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (13.89%)