No-Net-Loss

Summary

“No-Net-Loss” of public lands has become increasingly important to ensure access to public lands and waterways for current and future generations of sportsmen and women. Sometimes referred to as “Hunting Heritage Protection Acts,” these policies limit the loss of access to hunting and fishing opportunity by establishing a minimum acreage of publicly- owned areas open to sportsmen and women, which ensures that future generations have the same opportunities tomorrow that currently exist today.

Introduction

“No-Net-Loss” of public hunting lands has become increasingly more important to ensure access to hunting lands for current and future generations of hunters. Also referred to as “Hunting Heritage Protection Acts,” these bills create a baseline number of publicly owned lands open to hunting, ensuring that future generations have the same opportunities tomorrow that currently exist today.

History

President George H.W. Bush first addressed the subject of “No-Net-Loss” as a wetland conservation goal for his administration in 1989. After President Bush left office, all of his successors have used their position to bring awareness to the need for legislation. In 2004, at the inaugural National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Annual Summit, Illinois Representative Dan Reitz, continued the conversation on “No-Net-Loss”, leading it to become a NASC issue brief during the 2005 legislative session. Sportsmen’s caucuses in Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia passed related legislation in 2007. Sportsmen’s caucuses in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, and Mississippi had already previously addressed the issue. Additionally, in early 2010, the Alabama Legislature passed HB 330, which required the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to “find replacement acreage for hunting lands when existing hunting lands owned or managed by the department are closed to ensure there is no-net-loss of land acreage available for hunting.” In 2020, New Jersey introduced two bills: AB 131 and SB 1417, which call for no net loss of Department of Environmental Protection lands for fishing, hunting, and trapping purposes in New Jersey.

Points of Interest

  • In Florida, many environmental and land conservation groups were concerned that “No-Net-Loss” legislation was trying to open state parks to hunting. Legislators sponsoring the bill addressed these concerns by clarifying that State Park lands would not be used as replacement lands.
  • “No-Net-Loss” legislation in no way infringes on private property rights or on the rights of local governments to manage their own lands.
  • Legislation can include a provision that requires state agencies to provide written justification for any closure of public hunting lands and provide annual reports to the legislature detailing the public lands closed to hunting in the preceding year and the lands opened to hunting to compensate for the closure.
  • The language should also include the “No-Net-Loss” of public fishing and fishing access points.
  • Any replacement lands or waters should be of equal or greater quality wildlife habitat than those it replaces and should be in as close geographical proximity to the closed lands as possible.
  • Former Governor Booth Gardner of Washington issued Executive Order 90-04 in 1990, which commits state agencies to the "No-Net-Loss" wetland policy of avoiding or minimizing damage to wetlands.

The following states have passed No-Net-Loss legislation using the language below:

  • Connecticut Public Act No. 09-173: “The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall not reduce the amount of state land where hunting is permitted without providing for an equal amount of such land elsewhere in the state. The amount of state land where hunting is permitted shall not be less than the percentage of state land where hunting was permitted as of July 1, 2008.”
  • Maine Public Law, Chapter 564: “The bureau may not reduce the total number of acres of non-reserved public lands open to hunting to less than the total number of acres available for hunting on those lands as of January 1, 2008. If non-reserved public lands are closed to hunting for any reason, the bureau must open another comparable parcel of land within the jurisdiction of the bureau for hunting.”
  • Alabama Public Act 210-213: “Department land management decisions and actions shall not result in any net loss of habitat land acreage available for hunting opportunities on department-owned lands that exist on March 22, 2010. The department shall expeditiously find replacement acreage for hunting to compensate for closures of any existing hunting land. Replacement land, to the greatest extent possible, shall be located within the same administrative region of the department and shall be consistent with the hunting discipline that the department allowed on the closed land.”

Moving Forward 

Ensuring access to our natural resources is of paramount importance to our sporting heritage, and so it is strongly recommended that states adopt no-net-loss provisions. It is the duty of each caucus leadership team to determine the best course of action in your state and modify the above language as necessary.

Contact

For more information regarding this issue, please contact Kent Keene; 202-430-0655; kkeene@congressionalsportsman.org

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