House subcommittee discusses wildlife conservation bills

The Water, Oceans and Wildlife subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee met last week to consider several wildlife conservation bills, in a legislative hearing chaired by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Cal.

Seven bills were considered during the hearing, including the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act (H.R. 877), legislation supported by TWS. The bill would amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to allow state wildlife agencies to use certain funds allocated through the Wildlife Restoration Account to build and maintain shooting ranges, and for marketing and communications efforts to recruit, retain and reactive hunters and recreational shooters.

Another bill, H.R. 1809, considered during the hearing would amend the Pittman-Robertson Act and the Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act to provide parity for U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

Also discussed at the hearing was the Access Act (H.R. 1326), which would expand recreation opportunities on federal land. It also reauthorizes the  North American Wetlands Conservation Act and includes the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Protection Act, which  would allow the Service to seek compensation when refuge resources are intentionally damaged. This legislation has been previously supported by TWS.

The Access Act also includes two provisions dealing with chronic wasting disease, the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act and the Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act, which would provide resources state agencies and tribes need to research and manage the disease.  

Other bills considered by the subcommittee would support the conservation of the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) (H.R. 1568), prohibit the sale of shark fins (H.R. 737), implement the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (H.R. 1305) and prohibit private ownership of certain types of big cats (H.R. 1380).

During the hearing, congressional sponsors for each bill spoke in favor of their legislation, and a panel of outside witnesses offered testimony on the proposed legislation. Among the sponsors was Nick Pinizzotto, President and CEO of the National Deer Alliance, who spoke in support of several bills, emphasizing the CWD provisions of the Access Act.

“CWD is the most significant threat to the future of healthy deer populations, deer hunting and the hunting industry that we have ever encountered,” said Pinizzotto. “Simply put, CWD is spreading, and herd productivity is being impacted in multiple locations. Those of us regularly working on the disease often say that the amount we don’t know about it outweighs what we do

know about it. It is critical for state and tribal wildlife managers to continually monitor and track its spread so that the most effective management strategies can be employed.”

The subcommittee must vote on the bills before they progress out of committee and to a vote in the House.

Header Image: A recent House subcommittee discussed several bills related to wildlife conservation. ©Lisa Hupp/USFWS