February 6, 2014

Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Introduces Bill to Help Sportsmen Gain Access to Public Land

On January 30, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) member, Representative Steve Daines introduced the Making Public Lands Public Access Act (H.R. 3962). This bill opens access for hunting and angling and outdoor recreation on existing public lands.

H.R. 3962 would require the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to utilize 1.5% or a minimum of $10 million annually of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) budget for projects that secure recreational public access to existing federal lands through easements, rights-of-way, or fee title acquisitions from willing sellers.

“This legislation is an important step in opening access to federal land that is currently inaccessible or significantly restricted to sportsmen’s activities. Access to quality habitat is a key to the future of our sportsman’s way of life, and this bill will directly improve access to more public lands so all Americans can enjoy the great outdoor traditions of hunting and angling,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) President Jeff Crane.

Opening access to the public lands that U.S. citizens own is not only vital to protecting America’s sporting heritage, but it will also serve to benefit the economy. In 2011, sportsmen and women spent nearly $90 billion on their outdoor pursuits, according to CSF’s report, “America’s Sporting Heritage: Fueling the American Economy.” Additionally, excise taxes on angling, hunting, shooting equipment and motorboat fuel as well as fees for licenses and stamps are all dedicated to state fish and wildlife management programs. As the foundation of the American System of Conservation Funding, these excise taxes generate nearly $3 billion a year for conservation efforts.

For over a decade, CSF has been at the forefront of documenting the issue of inaccessibility to significant portions of federal public lands. As a result, CSF began the ‘Making Public Lands Public’ initiative with the support and cooperation of allies in the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), a group of over 40 non-governmental organizations representing millions of hunter conservationists. AWCP requested that an access category be created within the LWCF to be used by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service to open or improve access to existing federal lands for hunting, angling and other recreational activities.

With the support of CSF and six other sportsmen’s conservation groups, Rep. Daines sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, seeking cosponsors for H.R. 3962. Click here to read what CSF and other sportsmen’s conservation groups are saying about the Making Public Lands Public Act.

Language similar to H.R. 3962 is also included in the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S.1996). CSF will continue to work with our bipartisan partners in the CSC to advance these sportsmen’s priorities through Congress.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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