S. 170 leaves no doubt about the importance of hunting and angling on our nation’s public lands. Photo by Dusan Smetana.
The TRCP recently announced our support of the Hunting and Fishing Heritage and Opportunities Act (S.170), Senate legislation that promotes science-based management of fish, wildlife and their habitats and establishes public-lands hunting and fishing as priority activities that must be recognized and facilitated by the federal public lands planning process.
Reintroduced in the 113th Congress by Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, S.170 follows a similar measure considered by lawmakers in 2012. Neither the House nor the Senate bills in the 112th Congress gained traction in part due to controversial provisions related to the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Sens. Murkowski and Manchin went to great lengths to revise and address those concerns and to improve the chances of the legislation making it to the president’s desk.
The new legislation was developed largely in response to several lawsuits that seek to restrict access to federal lands, including a case that would have closed off parts of the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan to hunting and snowmobiling. Sportsmen retained access in this case, but the fact that the lawsuit forced the Forest Service to consider management measures that would have banned hunting and snowmobiling convinced lawmakers that legislative action was necessary. S.170 would protect the rights of hunters and anglers in a number of important ways:
It would solidify access by sportsmen as a priority for federal land managers by requiring that they consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. This diminishes the chances that a legal challenge such as the Michigan case would be successful.
It creates a new level of transparency by requiring that closures of more than 1,280 contiguous or aggregate acres go through a public process, which includes providing notice to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.
Though companion legislation has not yet been introduced in the House, the TRCP and other sportsmen’s groups are urging congressional leaders in that chamber to pattern its version of the legislation after the Senate bill.
“The TRCP is pleased to support the Hunting and Fishing Heritage and Opportunities Act, and we thank Senators Murkowski and Manchin for introducing it,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “S. 170 leaves no doubt about the importance of hunting and angling on our nation’s public lands. We urge the House of Representatives to introduce a companion bill that stays true to this course – and to promote its subsequent speedy passage into law.”
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