Senate Could Vote on Sportsmen's Act This Week

The first hint of what the election meant to sportsmen could come when the lame-duck session of the Senate is scheduled to vote on Sen. John Tester's (D-MT) Sportsmen's Act (S. 3525) late this week. An amalgamation of numerous other bills that made their way through Congress this year, the key features of Tester's measure include:

* Reauthorizing the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA), the legislation responsible for most wetlands conservation work in the U.S. and Canada over the last 25 years. NAWCA was previously zeroed-out of the GOP's House budget.

* Using 1.5 percent of Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations for purchasing access to public lands from willing private sellers, helping give sportsmen access to additional 35 million acres of public property.

* Allowing more funding from Pittman-Robertson Act for development and operation of public shooting ranges.

* Reauthorizing the Partner for Fish and Wildlife program, a little-known but important initiative that helps landowners manage property to sustain and improve wetlands and other habitat critical to all wildlife and especially threatened or endangered species.

* Allowing the sale of federal duck stamps electronically, removing a major headache for waterfowlers.

* Moving decisions on lead-based gear from the EPA to state game and fish agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tester's bill is supported by major sportsmen's conservation groups, including Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. It sailed through committee hearings before the election, and supporters are hoping the same will happen when the measure comes up on the floor. Tester, a sportsmen's favorite, won reelection last week after a hard-fought campaign against a GOP challenger, a victory in which sportsmen's groups played a key role.