Some In Congress Are Finally Paying Attention To Sportsmen

It's hard to believe after events of the last few months (see: government shutdown, sequester, conservation budget cuts) but this is just in: Congress deserves sportsmen's praise!

Well, maybe that's a little over the top.

The truth is, only some members of Congress deserve our praise so far--specifically, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who have packaged some long-overdue ideas to help fish, wildlife and sportsmen.

Hagan is the lead author of the Sportsmen's and Public Outdoor Recreation Traditions (SPORT) Act introduced this month, which includes some of the important items that were in Murkowski's Sportsmen's Act, which was introduced earlier this year.

This is a long over-due change from the way hunters and anglers have been treated on Capitol Hill over the last 18 months. Basically, when decision time came in the House, Senate or White House, we've been thrown under the bus, over the cliff, and down the toilet bowl. If it weren't for our retrievers, we wouldn't have any friends.

Now they seem to be paying attention. Key goals of the SPORT Act include:

- Exempting the Wildlife Restoration Trust and the Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Safety Trust Funds from the across-the-board cuts of sequestration. This fish and wildlife funding that comes from the wallets of hunters and anglers should not be held hostage by bickering politicians. The bill would give us back our $50 million, and prevent this from happening again.

- Requiring 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund dedicated to expand public access to currently inaccessible federal public lands, and inventory federal lands where hunting and fishing is legal but inaccessible. Lack of access has long been established as one of the biggest reasons many hunters drop out of the sport. If we're paying for the management of these lands with our own tax dollars, why shouldn't we be able to reach them?

- Reauthorizing permanently the Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act (FLTFA), a program that allows "land-for-land" swaps between government agencies and private landowners to secure critical in-holdings on public lands.

- Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), programs that conserve wetlands by matching public funding. NAWCA alone impacted 26.5 million acres of wetlands over the last 20 years.

Now before you start sending thank-you notes, remember what football coaches say about "potential"--it just means you haven't done it yet.

So sportsmen should sit at their computers and send emails to their congress people with this message: I'm watching you on the SPORT Act. Vote against this and I'll vote against you.

You can find out whom to send this to at www.contactingthecongress.org.