February 11, 2014
Conservation Measures Suddenly Gain Momentum in Congress
By Bob Marshall
In an earlier life, when I covered sports that involved balls, a coach once told me “Momentum is a factor because the players think it is.”
You don’t need to be Aristotle to figure that one out. But the observation came to mind because there has certainly been a sudden, positive momentum to sportsmen’s concerns in Washington. And, just maybe, Congress is finally doing right by sportsmen because its members finally think it’s the right thing to do.
Just days after the two-year struggle to get the new Farm Bill enacted finally ended in victory, three more important bills for sportsmen have a stiff wind at their backs.
The House easily passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (H.R. 3590), supported by major sportsmen’s groups. Its major focus is language strengthening laws that sanction hunting, fishing, and other recreation on federal lands, reaffirming the current practice of having the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determine the use of lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands, and allowing the purchase of duck stamps online — a long overdue convenience for waterfowlers.
The Senate version of that effort, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, was introduced this week. It combines several other measures:
- Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act (S.170) would require federal land managers to consider how management plans affect hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, and to keep their lands open to those activities.
- Making Public Lands Public would require that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund monies be made available to secure public access to existing federal lands that have restricted access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities.
- Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013 (S.738) would authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow any state to provide federal duck stamps online.
- North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization (S.741) would reauthorize NAWCA through fiscal year 2017. That act provides matching grants to organizations, state and local governments, and private landowners for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of wetlands critical to the habitat of migratory birds.
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization (S.51) would reauthorize NFWF, a nonprofit that preserves and restores native wildlife species and habitats.
- Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act (S.1505) would exempt lead fishing tackle from being regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
- Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (S.1212) would enable states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges.
Finally, all waterfowlers should be encouraged that the Migratory Bird Habitat Investment and Enhancement Act (S. 1865) has been moved to the Senate floor. This would raise the price of the federal duck stamp from $15 to $25 in an effort to allow vital waterfowl habitat conservation programs to keep face with the rapidly rising cost of farmlands.
Of course, none of this welcome momentum means sportsmen can celebrate. They need to contact their congressional delegations and insist on support.
Which reminds me of another expression I often heard during those dark days when I covered ball sports: “Potential means you haven’t done anything yet.”
So keep those emails and letters flowing.