August 7, 2013

Sportsmen’s Priorities Moving in Congress

On July 31, the House Committee on Natural Resources marked up two important sportsmen’s priorities for the 113th Congress: the Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act (H.R. 1818) and the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (H.R. 2463). Both of these bills have been identified as sportsmen’s legislative priorities agreed upon by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) House leadership for the 113th Congress, which were released at the July 10 breakfast briefing hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).

On August 2, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs held a legislative hearing on H.R. 2799, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, and the Public Lands Filming Act, H.R. 2798, two important pro-sportsmen’s bills introduced and cosponsored by the bipartisan leadership of the CSC. Both of these important pro-sportsmen’s bills have also been identified as sportsmen’s legislative priorities for the 113th Congress.

Summarily, these four sportsmen’s bills have been detailed below:

• Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act (H.R. 1818/S. 847)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has concluded that the Endangered Species Act listing of the polar bear as “threatened” automatically makes the polar bear a depleted species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Sections 101 and 102 of the MMPA prohibit the importation of a species designated as depleted. The USFWS has determined that this prohibition ends the authorization under section 104(c)(5) to import polar bear trophies from six approved populations in Canada. However, between 38 and 41 hunters legally hunted a polar bear before the listing of the polar bear on May 15, 2008 and now cannot import their trophy due to the ESA listing. This legislation allows for the Secretary to authorize permits for re-importation of legally harvested Polar Bears from approved populations in Canada before the 2008 ban. If this bill were to be enacted, up to $41,000 would be generated for polar bear conservation and research which would aid in future polar bear conservation efforts.

• Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (H.R. 2463/S. 1212)
This legislation amends the Pittman-Robertson Act by adjusting the funding limitations. This allows states more funds to be available for a longer period of time for the creation and maintenance of shooting ranges. This legislation also encourages federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain shooting ranges.

• SHARE Act (H.R. 2799)
This legislation permanently establishes the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee to advise the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on wildlife and habitat conservation, hunting and recreational shooting.

• Public Lands Filming (H.R. 2798)
The current rules for filming and photographing on federal lands and waterways place a severe burden on individual journalists and small film crews wishing to participate in these activities on federal lands. This legislation will address the inequities, enforcement and process confusion that result from the current regulations by directing the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture, for any film crew of five persons or fewer, to require a permit and assess an annual fee of $200 for commercial filming activities or similar projects on federal lands and waterways administered by the Secretary. This prohibits the Secretary, for persons holding such a permit, from assessing any additional fee for commercial filming activities and similar projects that occur in those areas during those hours.

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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