October 22, 2018

Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council Urges Interior Department to Advance Access, Habitat Goals

Last week, the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council (HSSCC) provided the Department of the Interior (DOI) with recommendations to advance two longstanding priorities of the sportsmen’s community: access to federal lands and restoration of sage habitat. The recommendations were developed and approved during the HSSCC’s October 2 meeting held in Charlotte, North Carolina and represent the collaborative work of sportsmen’s community leaders tasked with providing formal recommendations to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on issues related to wildlife resources, hunting, and the shooting sports under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) President Jeff Crane serves as Chairman of the HSSCC.

BLM Public Lands Access Geodatabase

As part of the HSSCC’s effort to increase access for America’s sportsmen and women, the HSSCC encouraged DOI to support the development of a BLM Public Lands Access Geodatabase. If developed and implemented, the project would support creating a fully integrated, digitized nationwide mapping platform that can assist the agency with its land management planning efforts. Currently, the quality and type of mapping resources used by BLM planners at the field-level vary greatly, which can negatively impact the ability to identify and address recreational access issues through regular, periodic planning processes.

In its recommendations to the BLM, the HSSCC also noted that development of an Access Geodatabase has the potential to help provide access to isolated or “landlocked” parcels of federal public land. Recent estimates suggest there are 9.5 million acres of such lands across the West with recreational access being limited or nonexistent due to a lack of legal or practical access. Identifying solutions to this problem is a longstanding CSF priority associated with the Making Public Lands Public access initiative.

Restoring Healthy Habitats

The HSSCC also submitted a formal request for an update on implementation of Secretarial Order 3356 – specifically the status of a provision directing Interior agencies to develop a categorical exclusion for projects that use standard conservation practices to restore habitat for sage grouse and/or mule deer. Categorical exclusions are defined as categories of actions that have been determined to have “no significant individual or cumulative effect on the quality of the human environment” in the context of federal environmental review requirements.

In its letter, the HSSCC noted that development of a sage brush habitat categorical exclusion “will make it easier for land managers and wildlife organizations to work jointly to support healthy landscapes and recover important habitats for sage-grouse and mule deer populations.”

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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