On Capitol Hill, Congress is at work on a set of bills that will impact recreational hunting, fishing, shooting, and other outdoor activities. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a meeting on January 20 at which they marked up S.659, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, which included about a dozen proposed amendments and elicited passionate arguments from committee members. In the end, the bill passed through committee with several new amendments.
Some of the more controversial provisions and proposed amendments of the bill touched on topics such as wildlife trapping, natural resource protection, and chemical substance regulation.
Senator Cory Booker spoke on an amendment that would limit the use of traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System, a restriction that would likely interfere with professional wildlife management and regulated trapping activities. The Wildlife Society collaborated with other organizations as a part of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners coalition, urging the committee to reject any amendments that would restrict the ability of professionals to manage wildlife and invasive species. Senator Booker declined to put his amendment to a vote.
Another amendment discussed was The United States Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Protection Act, proposed by Senator Ben Cardin. This act would provide FWS authority to collect compensation for restoring damage incurred on its land by a third party, similar to authorities held by other federal land management agencies. As it stands, if an individual injures living or non-living resources on FWS managed lands they can be fined criminally, but the financial burden for repairing the damage is incumbent upon the wildlife refuge – a burden that ultimately gets passed on to the taxpayer. This amendment was discussed, but ultimately not voted on by the committee.
Other amendments that were passed include a provision that would prohibit the federal government from managing non-subsistence take of wildlife on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska, permission to use EPA approved pesticides near navigable waters without a permit, and a reauthorization of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Act.
S.659 will now move forward for consideration by the full Senate. Two companion senate bills and a House of Representatives bill have also passed through their respective committees and are likely going to be combined with S. 659 before being voted on by the Senate.
|Dani Dagan is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.|