Action Alert

While Congress is currently busy with tax and health care legislation, anti-wildlife bills remain on the agenda.

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), joined with Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Boozman (R-AR), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to introduce S. 1514, the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act. S. 1514 would remove endangered species protection for grey wolves in the Midwest.

Sportsmen’s Act (S. 733) would increase “sportsmen’s access to federal land.” Lead co-sponsors are Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Details of the bill are as follows:

SPORTSMEN’S ACCESS TO FEDERAL LAND

(Sec. 202) This bill declares that federal land must be open for hunting, noncommercial fishing, and recreational shooting unless the managing agency acts to close the lands. The bill establishes procedures for closing the land, including reporting on the closures.

(Sec. 204) The Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) may lease or permit the use of federal land for a shooting range, except land within:

  • a component of the National Landscape Conservation System;
  • a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System;
  • any area that is designated as a wilderness study area, administratively classified as wilderness-eligible or wilderness-suitable, or a primitive or semiprimitive area;
  • a national monument, national volcanic monument, or national scenic area; or
  • a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (including areas designated for study for potential addition to the system).

(Sec. 205) The bill amends the Equal Access to Justice Act and the federal judicial code to require the Administrative Conference of the United States to: (1) submit an annual report on the amount of fees and other expenses awarded to prevailing private parties in litigation involving the United States; and (2) create and maintain a searchable, online database containing specified information with respect to each award. (The Equal Access to Justice Act allows a prevailing party to recover costs and attorneys’ fees against the United States in both administrative and judicial proceedings, if the position of the United States was not substantially justified.)

(Sec. 206) The National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the BLM, and the Forest Service must prepare a list that identifies land within their respective jurisdictions that is: (1) open to the public for hunting, noncommercial fishing, or recreational uses; (2) not accessible to the public because the land does not have public entry or exit points or has significantly restricted public entry and exit points; and (3) at a minimum, 640 acres in size. Those federal entities must: (1) make this information available biennially for a 10-year period, and (2) report on options for providing public entry and exit points for the land.

(Sec. 207) The bill amends the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, including by permanently authorizing the Department of the Interior to sell or exchange certain public land and use the proceeds from those sales or exchanges for acquiring land that is an inholding or adjacent to federally designated areas that contain exceptional resources.

  • lsexson

    I’m researching the Sportsmen’s Act, S. 733. I’m trying to find Senators in Congress that oppose the bill. In your opinion which Senators would be the best to contact about this bill?

    • Previous versions of the Sportsmen’s Act died from inertia, as Congress was too busy with other matters. The current Congress seems even less likely to pass legislation, and this remains the best hope for killing this session’s bill. Unfortunately, there are still too few Senators willing to stand up to the gun lobby to oppose the bill directly.

      • lsexson

        Are you very familiar with the bill? One the surface it looks like it’s about access to hunters and fisherman but after researching further, it seems to me that the bill is really about reauthorizing the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act which expired in 2011. I wouldn’t have even caught that part of the legislation if I hadn’t seen the Budget office report about saving the government 15 million over the next 10 years based on the selling of land already marked for disposal and the buying of high-priority land.

        • I’ve updated the info with a summary of the key section of S.733. In order to gain environmentalist support, senators like Martin Heinrich (D-NM) often emphasize that the bill includes reauthorization of the Federal Land Transfer Act. But even this provision, which is under the subheading of sportsmen’s access to federal land, is primarily intended to acquire land for the purpose of hunting. If these congressmen had intended to renew the Federal Land Transfer act for conservation purposes, they could have put forward a simple bill to renew that act.