Why It Matters: The Committee passage of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, the Save our Sequoias Act, and two other bills to address the Cottonwood decision are important steps forward in improving access for sportsmen and women and restoring the health of our forests. These CSF legislative priorities are focused on enhancing public lands access and recreational opportunities, and critically needed policy changes to allow improved public lands forest management.
- Last Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee respectively passed the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act ( 873) and H.R. 2989, the Save Our Sequoias Act.
- These Committees also respectively passed 1540 and H.R. 200, the Forest Information Reform Act; these bills address the problematic Cottonwood decision.
On Wednesday of last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee each passed two top Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) legislative priorities. Prior to the Committee votes, CSF sent an action to members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus urging a “yes” vote on all four pieces of legislation.
The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, S. 873, which is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. Joe Manchin and CSC Member Sen. Barrasso, includes well over 30 provisions that seek to increase outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, by enhancing access, modernizing permitting processes, improving visitation data, and authorizing unique conservation measures. S. 873 will require the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure that each of their respective districts has at least one public target shooting range. This legislation will also assist federal agencies in efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a serious threat to native aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Additionally, S. 873 includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts. Specifically, the Improved Recreation Visitation Data section directs certain federal land management agencies to capture various recreation visitation data. This section also establishes a real-time data pilot program to make available to the public real-time or predictive visitation data for federal lands, helping sportsmen and women with their trip planning efforts.
S. 1540, led by CSC Member Sen. Daines, and H.R. 200, led by Rep. Matt Rosendale, seek to alleviate the problems stemming from the 2015 Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service decision that has delayed and effectively halted the implementation of critical fish and wildlife habitat improvements on lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The 2015 decision requires federal land managers to reinitiate consultation at the programmatic level when new critical habitat is designated, a new species is listed, or new information about a listed species comes to light. Plan level consultation is not needed as every major federal action is highly scrutinized at the project level under NEPA, including consultation with the USFWS or NOAA, and consultation would still take place when new forest plans are developed. Despite support from the current and preceding two Presidential Administrations to address the Cottonwood decision in full, a partial fix to Cottonwood expired earlier this year, making S. 1540 and H.R. 200 even more necessary to fully manage our nation’s forests.
The Save our Sequoias Act, led by Speaker McCarthy and CSC Co-Chairs Reps. Panetta and Westerman and Vice Chairs Reps. Garret Graves and Jared Golden, among others, seeks to bolster the health of our nation’s forests, specifically our cherished giant sequoias. This legislation will improve coordination among the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the state of California, the Tule River Indian Tribe, and local governments to improve the health of giant sequoia stands. The Save Our Sequoias Act would enable land managers to improve forest resiliency to fire by reducing hazardous fuel loads and overstocking through thinning, insect and disease treatments, and prescribed fire. Additionally, the bill would facilitate the rehabilitation of lands negatively impacted by fire and the reforestation of giant sequoia stands to ensure the long-term viability of giant sequoias and the wildlife species that depend on these habitats.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation strongly supports these legislative efforts to improve access for sportsmen and women and help restore the health of our nation’s forests. CSF looks forward to working with the House and Senate to see these bills pass the full chambers.