Senate Committee Launches Latest Version of the Sportsmen’s Act
On March 30, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed Senate Bill 733, a bipartisan bill entitled the “Sportsmen’s Act.” The bill’s purposes include to “protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting.” S.733 was introduced on March 27 by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jim Risch (R-ID), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Just three days later, the Senate Committee passed the bill by a voice vote.
This latest version of the Sportsmen’s Act includes a number of provisions designed to improve opportunities and access for hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and those who provide services to the sportsmen’s community. S. 733 also increases agency transparency and accountability for the decision-making that affects hunters and the resources that federal agencies use to provide hunting opportunities.
Key provisions in S. 733 include:
- Specifically declaring the policy of the United States to include the enhancement of hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities on federal lands;
- Continuing to recognize the States’ authority and responsibility for wildlife within their borders;
- Establishing that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands are open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless specifically closed to those activities;
- Placing limits on such closures and imposing requirements for the process for closing lands;
- Requiring the creation of a list of federal public lands that allow hunting but for which access is a problem;
- Exempting commercial filming permits for film crews of three or fewer, or for news gathering purposes;
- Amending the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to allocate funds for construction and expansion of public target ranges on BLM and Forest Service lands;
- Adding agency reporting requirements to the Equal Access for Justice Act for monies spent in litigation settlements and awards;
- Establishing a statutory Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council to advise the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on wildlife and habitat conservation, hunting, and recreational shooting;
- Allowing the transport across National Park Service (NPS) land of bows or crossbows that are “not ready for immediate use”; and
- Confirming it is proper to use qualified volunteers from the hunting community to cull wildlife on NPS land.
Although the bill contains numerous sections providing benefit to hunters, it does not include several provisions that had been part of earlier versions of the Sportsmen’s Act and that are of particular interest to SCI members (e.g., importation of polar bears harvested in 2014). S. 733 represents a significant start in this Congress’ effort to adopt important sportsmen’s legislation. SCI will be working with both the House and the Senate toward passage of a bill that will address S.733’s provisions as well as others of concern to our members. Please continue to monitor your SCI communications and publications for updates on this issue.