Sportsmen’s Act Passes Senate Committee with Bipartisan Support

By Zachary Sheldon

Two hunters at Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge. Image Credit: Michael Johnson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, licensed by cc 2.0

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, S. 556, by a voice vote on November 19. The bill has received broad bipartisan support and is part of a package of bills aimed at increasing opportunities on federal lands for sportsmen.

The Sportsmen’s Act would set a national policy for federal departments and agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities on federal land, in part by compelling them to consider these activities in all federal land management plans. It would additionally require those agencies to conserve and enhance habitat and management of game species while respecting state management authority and private property rights.

The Act also reauthorizes the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) and permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), both popular conservation programs. FLTFA allows the federal government to sell public land for ranching, community development, and other projects and use the revenue to purchase lands with high conservation value. LWCF creates a fund used by federal, state, and local governments to procure lands for conservation and increase recreational access. This LWCF provision requires that 40% of the funds go to state programs and at least 1.5% of the funds are used to increase recreational access on public lands.

Other provisions in the Act change the permit system for filming on public lands, allow the transport of bows across national parks, and create a fund to finance high-priority deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service.

Senator Heinrich (D-NM) said after the passage, “The Sportsmen’s Act has been a long time in the making, and I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Senator Murkowski. Hunting and fishing are an integral part of our American heritage, but without our public lands, that tradition will be lost. This bill will make sure our kids and grandkids will be catching trout and chasing mule deer on our public lands for many years to come.”

The Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 now awaits consideration by the full Senate next. The other bill in the sportsmen’s package, S. 659, falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and is waiting for a committee vote.

Zachary Sheldon is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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