NWF applauds sportsmen’s legislation

Bipartisan package in Senate expands access to public lands for recreation,hunting and angling and boosts conservation funding to preserve outdoor heritage

02-04-2014 // Judith Kohler
Acadia Park father and daughter fishingThe National Wildlife Federation welcomes the announcement of a bipartisan legislative package in the Senate that would expand and enhance hunting, angling and other outdoor recreation on our public lands and help secure  conservation funding for years to come.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 prepared by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and introduced  Tuesday includes a provision to open currently inaccessible public lands to hunting and fishing. Another would give the Interior secretary permanent authority to permit states to issue electronic duck stamps, which generate vital funding for wetlands conservation.

"Hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts of all sorts make up about half our 4 million members and supporters. The National Wildlife Federation was formed nearly 80 years ago after our founder, J.N. “Ding” Darling joined other  sportsmen and wildlife conservationists to protect wildlife and invest in conservation,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. "The legislation introduced by Sens. Hagan and Murkowski will help secure future conservation investments and ensure that hunters and anglers get to enjoy even more of our public lands by expanding access to them. The National Wildlife Federation wants to work with the sponsors to build support for the bills and help strengthen the package, so that our proud outdoor heritage remains sound for our children’s future."

The following proposals are among those that will have "a direct positive impact on hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation," Schweiger wrote in a letter to the senators:

  • Reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act, which, among other things, allows public agencies to work with willing landowners to acquire private land surrounded by public land. The program creates jobs and revenue, NWF noted.
  • Reauthorization of North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, both of which leverage public and private funding for fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands, migratory birds and conservation projects. NWF noted that NAWCA has helped protect or restore 25.6 million acres of wetlands during the last two decades while NFWF has leveraged nearly $576 million in federal funds into $2 billion worth of conservation projects.
  • A provision allowing states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to construct and maintain public shooting ranges on federal lands.

This big step forward for fish and wildlife conservation would go even further by adding language from the Migratory Bird Habitat Investment and Enhancement Act to raise the federal duck stamp to $25 from $15. The current buying power of the stamp, started by Ding Darling to raise money for wetlands, has never been lower.

Another significant addition would be the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, which would foster nationwide partnerships to advance fisheries conservation and promote healthy aquatic environments that benefit local communities as well as fish and wildlife.

"We know that sportsmen and women spend about $90 billion a year on hunting and fishing. The total for all outdoor recreation is about $646 billion. Investing in conservation is a win for wildlife, hunters, anglers, the economy – everyone," said John Gale, NWF’s national sportsmen’s campaign manager. "Sportsmen and women are America’s original conservationists and we tip our hats to Sens. Murkowski and Hagan for joining us in shepherding this legacy of stewardship for future generations of hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts."