Habitat Conservation and Sportsmen’s Bill Introduced in House

By Caroline E. Murphy

Blue-winged teal.
Blue-winged teal.
Image Credit: Alan D. Wilson, Wikimedia Commons

The “Sportsmen’s Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act,” or “SCORE Act” is a recently introduced package of legislation that works to conserve wildlife and fish habitat as well as improve opportunities for hunters and anglers.

The SCORE Act (H.R. 3173) includes reauthorization or introduction of six federal habitat conservation programs. These programs include the reauthorizations of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA). The NAWCA and NMBCA provide grants to protect habitat for migratory wildlife throughout North America. The SCORE Act would also reauthorize the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a program that provides grants to a wide-variety of wildlife and environmental conservation projects.

In addition to protecting habitat via grant programs, the bill would reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). The FLTFA, expired since 2011, allows for the sale and consolidation of public lands by the Bureau of Land Management in order for federal agencies to acquire lands of higher conservation value.

The Wildlife Society has historically supported each of these programs by advocating for reauthorization and funding. TWS signed-onto a recent letter with groups such as Ducks Unlimited and American Bird Conservancy to thank Representative Kind (D-WI) and Representative Wittman (R-VA) for introducing stand-alone legislation to re-authorize the NMBCA.

The SCORE Act also includes a provision to adopt the “Making Public Lands Public” Program. This program would require that 1.5 percent of Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) money be set aside to expand recreational access to federal public lands. This provision also exists in the LWCF framework that currently enjoys bipartisan support in other pending pieces of legislation.

A bigger point of contention is a compliment bill to the SCORE Act called the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act”, or H.R. 2406. Nicknamed the “SHARE Act”, this bill was introduced to the House in May and has yet to reach the floor this year. The Obama Administration has criticized parts of the measure, arguing against its potential to limit National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews on public lands as well as its potential to streamline the authorization of temporary roads and permanent structures within designated wilderness areas.

Sportsmen’s and habitat conservation groups such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) are in favor of both the SCORE Act and the SHARE Act working alongside one another. According to a TRCP press release, “[SHARE] assures access for hunters and anglers, while SCORE seeks to improve habitat. Together, these bills assure a bright future for American sportsmen and women.”

As the Congressional August recess begins, the fate of these two bills is unclear. While the SCORE Act has the advantage of bipartisan support as well as the backing of many environmental and sportsmen’s groups, the reliance of this bill on the success of SHARE Act provisions as well as how much Congress sees these issues as priority remains unknown.

Additional Resources: Environment & Energy Daily (July 22, 2015), Environment & Energy Daily (May 21, 2015)

Caroline Murphy is the Government Relations Manager at The Wildlife Society. Read more of Caroline's articles.