NWF backs Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act, urges enhanced conservation

"As the bill advances we hope Congress considers including additional habitat conservation and sportsmen access measures."

The National Wildlife Federation commends the sponsors of bipartisan sportsmen’s legislation for supporting increased conservation funding and improved access to public lands and encourages Congress to strengthen conservation measures and efforts to expand public access for hunting, angling and other wildlife-related recreation

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Thursday on the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 by Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

“The National Wildlife Federation has more than a million hunters and anglers across our national organization and 49 state affiliates so we’re encouraged by legislation that would increase conservation funding and improve access to public lands for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. We’re glad the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act would reauthorize programs to leverage public and private funds for fish and wildlife habitat and provide funding to open landlocked public tracts to sportsmen and others,” NWF CEO and President Collin O’Mara said. “As the bill advances we hope Congress considers including additional habitat conservation and sportsmen access measures and works to reauthorize such key programs as the Land and Water Conservation Act. Collectively, these actions would make this session a truly landmark year for wildlife and sportsmen and ensure that the outdoor legacy built by previous bipartisan efforts lives on indefinitely.”

In a letter to Murkowski and Heinrich, NWF praised provisions that would have “a direct positive impact on hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation,” including:

Measures identifying public lands now inaccessible to hunting, fishing and other activities and directing that 1.5 percent of Land and Water Conservation funds be used to open those areas to the public.
Reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act, which allows public agencies to acquire private in-holdings from willing landowners to enhance conservation and public access.
Reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which leverage public and private funds for habitat and conservation projects.
However, NWF expressed concern that the legislation includes fewer proactive conservation measures than previous sportsmen’s proposals. Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Act, approval of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act and stronger efforts to combat harmful invasive species are among the provisions NWF encouraged Congress to add to the bill.

“Wildlife habitat conservation, especially on our nation’s public lands, is essential to providing quality hunting and angling experiences – over eighty percent of the most critical habitat for elk and deer and over fifty percent of the nation’s blue ribbon trout streams are found on public lands,” NWF wrote.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation generate an estimated of $646 billion in spending yearly and support 6.1 million direct jobs.

A section of the bill NWF wants to see dropped or changed would exempt the use of lead in hunting and fishing equipment from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act. NWF is concerned that a legislative exemption will undermine the incentive for sportsmen to continue voluntarily reducing the use of lead to minimize the impacts on fish and wildlife.

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