Bill numbers change but the mission of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and its valued conservation partners does not. S.405, titled The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, was introduced on February 5, by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), with the bipartisan Senate CSC leadership as original co-sponsors. Senate CSC leaders for the 114th Congress include: Co-Chairs Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Vice-Chairs Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
“The Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act is not only an access bill, but also a way to promote economic growth in our country. Sportsmen and women across the country spend billions of dollars each year on outdoor activities. In Alaska alone there are more than 125,000 individuals who engage in hunting each year. This economic activity not only helps local communities but aids conservation efforts as well,” said Senator Murkowski (R-AK). “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation supports conservation efforts while also improving access to recreational hunting and fishing on federal lands.”
“This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America’s thriving outdoor recreation economy,” said Senator Heinrich (D-NM). “This is what brings us together. This is the one thing that is still bipartisan, the love of passing these traditions on from generation to generation. We need to make this sportsmen’s package happen. We need to do it in this Congress. We need to show people across the country that Washington can do the right thing [for sportsmen and women].”
Seven of the 14 provisions included in S. 405 were assigned to bill no S. 556 and were discussed at a hearing today in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. CSF’s President, Jeff Crane, testified in favor of the Act that CSF has been engaged with throughout the process and which builds off of a multi-year effort to send a pro-sportsmen’s package of legislation to the President’s desk. CSF has lead the charge to pass a comprehensive sportsmen’s package to protect and advance this nation’s time-honored outdoor traditions in the 112th, 113th, and now the 114th Congress. Previous sportsmen’s packages passed the House of Representatives, but have never achieved approval by the Senate. As Crane succinctly put it in his testimony:
“The title, ‘Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act,’ is in itself indicative of the fact that conservation, hunting, recreational fishing and shooting, and our outdoor traditions are not defined by or constrained to any partisan label. We are sportsmen and women because we love and care for America’s great outdoors, regardless of political affiliation, race, religion, gender, or socio-economic standing. In a city all too often characterized by partisan rancor, S. 405 already has 18 cosponsors, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. In the 113th Congress, a nearly identical Senate bill had 46 bipartisan cosponsors. In the House of Representatives, similar sportsmen’s packages were passed with strong bipartisan support in both the 112th and 113th Congresses. It is now time to pass the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015.”
The specific provisions included in S. 556 include:
• Title I. Sec. 101 – Recreational Fishing, Hunting, and Recreational Shooting on Federal Public Land
• Title I. Sec. 102 – Annual Permit and Fee for Film Crews of Five Persons or Fewer
• Title I. Sec. 103 – Federal Action Transparency
• Title I. Sec. 104 – Bows in the Parks
• Title II. Sec. 201 – Availability of Land and Water Conservation Fund for Recreational Public Access Projects
• Title II. Sec. 202 – Identifying Opportunities for Recreation, Hunting, and Fishing on Federal Lands
• Title II. Sec. 203 – Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act
Access is the number one reason given by lapsed hunters and anglers for why they no longer participate, and S. 556 would directly address this and other issues in a pragmatic and comprehensive way. Crane framed the stakes of the moment, saying:
“With an ever increasing population and urban/suburban sprawl, it is imperative that access and opportunity are protected and even enhanced for future generations. In an effort to get our younger generations off the couch and out from behind the computer, recreational access to our national treasures of public lands and waters is imperative. Where this access does currently exist, let’s entrench it and provide certainty that it will always be there. Where it doesn’t, let’s ask why, and if reasonable and feasible, let’s look at solutions to make it more accessible. After all, these are public assets owned by the American people that were established for multiple use, including low impact recreational uses like hunting and fishing.”
At 39 million strong, and spending $90 billion annually on their pursuits, sportsmen and women contribute tremendously to America’s economy and its fish and wildlife resources. Their voices were heard today, and CSF is committed to ensuring it continues to be heard through the nearly 300 member Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
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?