Why it matters: Our nation’s vast network of federal public lands and water provide significant recreational opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women. The Outdoor Recreation Act, which was introduced on November 18, recognizes the importance of federal public lands for sportsmen and women by seeking to increase public access, modernize public land visitation data, and conserve important water systems for anglers and boaters.
On December 2, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Act. In advance of the hearing, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a statement for the record to express the Foundation’s strong support for this legislation.
One of the top CSF priorities contained in the bill is a provision to promote recreational shooting opportunities on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands. Specifically, S. 3266 directs the BLM and the USFS to ensure that each of their respective districts has at least one public recreational target shooting range. This provision will expand opportunities for America’s 32 million target shooters who are the backbone of state-based wildlife conservation funding. Just last year, through excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment, hunters and recreational shooters contributed approximately $702 million to wildlife conservation through the Pittman-Robertson Fund. Over 80% of this funding is directly attributable to recreational target shooters, who often spend even more than hunters on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment.
Additionally, the Outdoor Recreation Act seeks to modernize and synthesize federal public land visitation data to better inform and guide future land management decisions and planning efforts. Currently, through no fault of their own, our federal public land managers all collect visitation data using inconsistent methodologies, leading to discrepancies in the total amount and types of outdoor recreation supported by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation. By directing these agencies to collectively modernize their visitation data, S. 3266 will help enhance future outdoor recreation opportunities.
The Outdoor Recreation Act will also provide assistance to federal agencies to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a serious threat to native aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Once established, aquatic invasive species are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate, and significant resources must be invested annually on population management. Preventing harmful introductions before they occur is the most effective means to avoid the risk aquatic nuisance species present. For example, Zebra mussels alone cause $300–$500 million annually in damages to power plants, water systems, and industrial water intakes in the Great Lakes Region.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso for introducing the Outdoor Recreation Act and moving quickly to hold a legislative hearing on this important bill. CSF looks forward to working the Committee to further advance this legislation.
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?