Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), along with a group of four other bipartisan co-sponsors, recently introduced S. 405, The Bipartisan Sportsmen Act of 2015. The bill aims to increase fishing, hunting, shooting and other recreational opportunities on public lands and includes 14 provisions covering both regulatory reforms and habitat conservation issues.
Several provisions emphasize the importance of increasing opportunity for access on currently existing public lands. Under one such provision, the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service would be required to provide access for fishing, hunting and recreational shooting unless specifically closed. Under another, the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be required to direct a set portion of its available funding to the improvement of recreational opportunity on federal lands with restricted public access. The HUNT Act provision would direct federal agencies to identify develop plans to provide access on lands with limited or restricted access.
The bill would also reauthorize important land conservation programs, such as the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, which allows the BLM to generate revenue for priority land acquisition by selling public land for ranching and development projects. The bill would also reauthorize the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which funds priority conservation needs with matching private funds, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which provides grants to public and private entities for wetland habitat acquisition and enhancement critical for migratory birds.
One provision would exempt lead ammunition and tackle from regulation under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Substance Control Act. Currently, the EPA cannot issue any rulings on lead ammunition due to a policy rider in the Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bills. This provision would permanently exempt lead ammunition and tackle from EPA regulations.
Conservation and sportsmen’s groups have expressed support for the bill.
Senator Murkowski introduced a similar bill in the 113th Congress, but debate over nearly 100 amendments, some of which included controversial measures on gun control, eventually stalled the bill’s progress. The current bill has been reviewed by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Sources: Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (February 5, 2015), Energy & Environment Daily (February 6, 2015)