H.R. 1825: FACT vs. FICTION

Posted on June 26, 2013

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HR 1825, Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act

Certain environmental and anti-hunting organizations have misrepresented the provisions and effects of HR 1825.  The bill protects hunting and wildlife conservation on Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands while reaffirming other prior Congressional actions enacted to protect hunting and wildlife conservation.

Fiction #1:  The bill would open to hunting units of the National Park System, including monuments and historic sites.

Fact #1:  The sponsors and supporters of HR 1825 do not intend to use the bill to open the National Park System (NPS) to hunting where it is not specifically authorized by Congress.  To make that clear, HR 1825 exempts the NPS from the provisions of the bill with the following language:

National Park Service Units Not Affected - Nothing in this Act shall affect or modify management or use of units of the National Park System.

Fiction #2:  The bill would open Wilderness areas to motor vehicle use by hunters and anglers.

Fact #2:  HR 1825 does not open Wilderness areas to any such activity prohibited by the 1964 Wilderness Act. In fact, Section 4(e) of the bill contains express language to ensure that it cannot be construed or interpreted to allow such motor vehicle use (and other uses inconsistent with the 1964 Wilderness Act) for recreational uses in designated Wilderness areas.

Fiction #3:  The bill’s “within and supplemental to” definition language weakens Wilderness Act protections and is a Trojan Horse provision intended to allow motorized vehicle use, road construction, and commodity uses now prohibited by the 1964 Act.

Fact #3:  In fact, HR 1825 simply reaffirms  the original language of Section 4(a) of the Wilderness Act which states: “The purposes of the Act are hereby determined to be within and supplemental to the purposes for which national forests and units of the national park system and national wildlife refuge systems are established and administered.  

As indicated above in response to Fiction #2, H.R. 1825 includes express language to ensure that it cannot be construed or interpreted to allow such motorized vehicle use, road construction and commodity uses (and other uses inconsistent with the 1964 Wilderness Act) for recreational uses in designated Wilderness areas.

Fiction #4:  The bill weakens the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Fact #4:  The bill establishes that BLM and Forest Service lands are “open unless closed” to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. NEPA requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) when a federal agency proposes to take “major federal action.” Since HR 1825 provides the lands are open as a matter of law, no “major federal action” is needed to keep these lands open to these traditional activities. And if there is no administrative “action”, there is no need for an EIS or NEPA review. HR 1825 confirms this established understanding of the law:

NO MAJOR FEDERAL ACTION- No action taken under this Act, or under section 4 of the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd), either individually or cumulatively with other actions involving Federal public lands or lands managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, shall be considered to be a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, and no additional identification, analysis, or consideration of environmental effects, including cumulative effects, is necessary or required.

The provision also fixes a court created problem regarding implementation of the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. The 1997 Act, signed into law by President Clinton, requires the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to prepare a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP), which includes its own environmental analyses process, for each refuge and use the CCP to make decisions providing for hunting and fishing and other wildlife dependent activities. Following an anti-hunter lawsuit against FWS, a District of Columbia court forced FWS to go beyond the CCP process and engage in costly and unnecessarily redundant NEPA analyses for each individual hunting opportunity opened on these refuges. HR 1825 eliminates the court imposed costly and duplicative NEPA analysis process and restores the single CCP requirement intended by the 1997 Act.

Fiction #5:  HR 1825 will require increased agency expenditures and will impose new burdens on agency operations.

Fact #5:  The bill will not require additional expenditures by BLM or the Forest Service nor will it impose significant work obligations on the involved federal agencies.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the implementation of HR 1825 will have no significant impact on the federal budget or the budgets of either agency and will not affect direct spending or revenues.  Because these land management agencies already have the authority to allow hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting on lands under their jurisdictions, CBO expects that implementing the bill would not significantly affect their agency operations.  As H.R. 1825 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act it will also not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.

 

Prepared, July 2013, by:

Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Rifle Association of America, Safari Club International, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance

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