On February 5, leaders and Members of the Senate Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) introduced the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 (S. 405) as a comprehensive sportsmen’s package of legislation aimed to benefit America’s sportsmen’s community.
Introduced by CSC Members Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), with original cosponsors, CSC Co-Chairs Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), and CSC Vice-Chairs Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), this package of legislation starts out with strong bipartisan support in the 114th Congress.
The bill includes 14 provisions, several similar to those within the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 from the 113th Congress. Among other provisions, the bill makes the existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, and adds lead tackle to the exempted products, leaving regulatory authority to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies; Requires federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting; enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands; and directs 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enhancing public recreational access for hunting, angling, and recreational shooting, otherwise known as Making Public Lands Public (MPLP).
“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 Sen. Murkowski. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation supports conservation efforts while also improving access to recreational hunting and fishing on federal lands.”
“The number one issue for sportsmen and women across the country is access. This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America’s thriving outdoor recreation economy. Hunters and anglers alone spend more than $465 million per year in New Mexico, and outdoor recreation as a whole is directly responsible for 68,000 jobs in our state,” said Sen. Heinrich. “As an avid hunter myself, I remain deeply committed to preserving our outdoor heritage and treasured public lands for future generations to enjoy.”
On Wednesday, February 4, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted the annual “Welcome to Congress” reception on Capitol Hill, welcoming new and returning Members of the CSC, and giving the CSC and sportsmen’s community an opportunity to discuss the introduction of the Sportsmen’s Act. “Getting a sportsmen’s package passed in this Congress is vital to the future of the nation’s hunting and angling opportunities. We have great bipartisan CSC support so far, but need to get as many Members of Congress involved as possible,” said CSF President Jeff Crane.
“Whether sportsmen and sportswomen go hunting or fishing to put food on the table, or for sport, or to pass down a tradition to their family, or for game management purposes, there is something in the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 for all of them,” said Sen. Risch. “With more than 39 million sportsmen and sportswomen of all ages in the United States, this legislation will ensure all can continue to access their favorite hunting or fishing spot. As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, I cannot put into words how important sporting issues are to so many Americans and their families. Hunting and fishing give us a great reason to be in the great outdoors, a great reason to hand down traditions, and a great reason to support this legislation.”
“As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and as an avid sportsman, it makes me so proud that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to preserve America’s beloved outdoor traditions,” Sen. Manchin said. “I’ve worked hard on these priorities ever since being the inaugural Co-Chairman of the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus, and I am continuing that work here in the Senate. Outdoor recreation is vital to sustaining our economy, preserving our family traditions, and maintaining our way of life. This comprehensive package will boost opportunities for hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, and conservationists alike; improve access to federal lands; and strengthen the overall outdoor recreation industry. I truly believe that the American people should be able to enjoy the great outdoors, and this bill expands people’s ability to do just that.”
The House CSC leadership is also currently working on a similar legislative sportsmen’s package that they are likely to introduce in the upcoming weeks.
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?