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NRA Fights to Secure Access to Federal Lands

Friday, September 9, 2011

NRA and several other groups (U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Safari Club International, Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, and the American Sportfishing Association, among others) are supporting new legislation that is critical to securing the future of hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting on Federal public lands. 

H.R. 2834, the “Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act,” was introduced by Reps. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.). Co-sponsors include Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.).

Under current land management policies, federal land open to hunting and recreational shooting is not protected from being closed arbitrarily. The ill-defined policy of “open until closed” provides no requirements for an agency to issue public notice, hold a public comment period, or show sound science as the basis for a closure. Moreover, there is no provision that requires land managers, such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land management, to even consider hunting, fishing, or target shooting in land use planning.

H.R. 2834 safeguards hunting, fishing and recreational shooting from prejudicial and discriminatory treatment and requires the Federal land manager to be proactive in managing these activities through the land management planning process. 

Specifically, the bill accomplishes six major objectives:

  • It recognizes the rightful place of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on Federal public lands.
  • It ensures that these historic and traditional public uses are responsibly provided for in land management plans, as are other popular recreational activities like hiking and camping.
  • It applies this policy across the board in our Federal land systems.
  • It supports an Executive Order issued by President Bush (“Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation”), which directs relevant Federal agencies to “facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat.”
  • It removes barriers to providing safe and responsible public use of Federal lands.
  • It restores Congressional intent in laws that court rulings have misconstrued that will cause deleterious effects on hunting and other recreational pursuits, as well as on sound wildlife management practices.

 

Susan Recce, NRA’s Director of Conservation, Wildlife and Natural Resources, provided Congressional testimony on the bill. She commented, “This bill is in the best interests of American sportsmen and women, who find it increasingly difficult to find a place to hunt or target shoot.  Current policies harbor too many hidden pitfalls--land is simply open until such time as it is closed by administrative fiat.  This bill protects and improves access to federal lands and removes the administrative and judicial roadblocks that obstruct sound and responsible management of recreation and wildlife resources.”

Already the bill is being mischaracterized by some who oppose it.

Paul Spitler, senior regional conservation representative for the Wilderness Society, told Energy and Environmental Daily, “It creates an exception to wilderness for any hunting access.  If you’re retrieving game, you could ride your off-road jeep anywhere you choose.”

The bill creates no such exception. Wilderness designation prohibits mechanized and motorized vehicles of all types, from “off-road jeeps” to mountain bikes. Both the Forest Service and the BLM have been developing Travel Management Plans that designate routes and trails for motorized vehicle use.  Some plans make an exception that allows limited use of a vehicle to retrieve legally downed big game some distance off a designated route.  Other plans make no exception.  But none of them apply to Wilderness areas.

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