April 10, 2024

House Passes Robust Recreation Package, Led by CSC Co-Chair Representative Westerman

April 10, 2024 (Washington, D.C.) – Yesterday evening, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6492, the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE Act), on a voice vote, a clear sign of the wide-spread support for this legislation and outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. This bipartisan legislation is strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair and Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Bruce Westerman, along with nearly two dozen other Representatives, many of which are CSC Members.

H.R. 6492 is complementary to another comprehensive package known as the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, which is led in the Senate by CSC Co-Chair Sen. Joe Manchin and CSC Member Sen. John Barrasso. The EXPLORE Act includes a number of longstanding CSF priorities, including an important provision that CSF has been spearheading for the last five years that will increase recreational shooting opportunities.

Specifically, the range access language contained in the EXPLORE Act requires the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to have a minimum of one free and public target shooting range in each of their respective districts. The Range Access Act also helps improve conservation funding through the Pittman-Robertson Act, which is the largest source of wildlife conservation funding for state fish and wildlife agencies. The Pittman-Robertson Act directs industry-level excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to be used for wildlife conservation purposes and programs to increase access for hunting and target shooting. Notably, approximately 80% of Pittman-Robertson Funding is generated by recreational shooters, who spend even more money on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment than hunters do.

The EXPLORE Act will also assist federal agencies in efforts 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 in population management. Preventing harmful introductions before they occur is the most effective means to avoid the risk aquatic nuisance species present. The bill provides federal land management agencies with the authority to carry out inspections and decontamination of vessels entering or leaving Federal land and waters. However, CSF worked to include language that will not prohibit boating access in the absence of a federal, state, or partner’s inspection station.

Additionally, this legislation includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts. Specifically, the Improved Recreation Visitation Data section directs certain federal land management agencies to capture various recreation visitation data. This section also establishes a real-time data pilot program to make available to the public real-time or predictive visitation data for federal lands, helping sportsmen and women with their trip planning efforts.

Furthermore, the EXPLORE Act contains another longstanding CSF priority that would streamline the permitting process for small film crews (six individuals or fewer) conducting filming or photography on federal lands. Under current law, small film crews are treated the same way in the permitting process as large-scale Hollywood productions. However, this legislation will make it clear that no additional film or photography permits are required for those small film crews, in accordance with other applicable laws and permit regulations. This provision will make it easier for sportsmen and women, outdoor production companies, and others to promote and share their federal land recreational experiences.

CSF thanks Rep. Westerman as well as the other bipartisan cosponsors of this legislation for their commitment to sportsmen and women and for moving this legislation through the House with widespread support. We look forward to working with the Senate, including Sens. Manchin and Barrasso to see these important provisions become law.

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