Sunday, February 8, 2015

Congress Revives Sportsmen's Act

Despite Washington gridlock, some senate Republicans and Democrats have agreed for three years on at least one thing.

Last week a wide-ranging coalition introduced the Sportsmen's Act of 2015, sort of an expanded reprise of similar bills introduced -- and defeated -- in each of the past three congresses. The bill is designed to improve conditions for hunting, fishing, target shooting and other outdoor recreation.

Written with bipartisan support, the current Sportsmen's Act would permanently strip the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating lead shot and other ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and add lead sinkers and other fishing gear to the existing exemption.

Regulatory authority would be transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies.

Among the bill's 14 provisions are mandates to allow gun owners to carry firearms on lands managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and permit archers to carry bows across national parks.

The bill would direct up to $10 million annually toward improving access to landlocked public lands, allocate a larger proportion of existing federal funding to building and maintaining shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands, and require federal land managers to consider how their plans may impact hunting, fishing and recreational shooting.

Remaining from previous versions of the bill is a provision that would allow the importation of polar bear trophies harvested legally in Canada. The bill was introduced by senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. with original sponsorship by Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jim Risch, R-Ind., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

"This comprehensive package will boost opportunities for hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists alike, improve access to federal lands and strengthen the overall outdoor recreation industry," Sen. Manchin said in a written statement.

"As co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and an avid sportsman, it makes me so proud that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to preserve America's beloved outdoor traditions."

The bill is supported by outdoors groups including the National Wild Turkey Federation, National Rifle Association, Trout Unlimited and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Efforts are underway to both block the bill -- again -- and to introduce a similar measure in the House.

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