Congress Approves Public Lands Package, Sends to President’s Desk

Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A long awaited package of provisions for sportsmen’s access and habitat conservation, the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47) was advanced by the House of Representatives, and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. A number of the provisions within S. 47 are access-oriented priorities of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).

Introduced in January by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK), S. 47 was passed by the U.S. Senate on an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 92 – 8, and most recently on a strong bipartisan vote of 363 - 62 in the U.S. House – all within the first two months of the 116th Congress. Priority provisions for CSF include:

Authorizing the transportation of archery equipment through National Park Service (NPS) Units.

Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund with 3% or $15 million - whichever is greater - of annual appropriations made available for the purpose of securing additional access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other outdoor related activities (Making Public Lands Public Initiative). Recent studies estimate there are nearly 10 million acres of public lands in the west that are open to sporting activities, but the general public is currently unable to access these parcels due to a number of reasons. This provision, along with other provisions in S. 47, will help address this by truly making public lands public.

Requiring Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands to be open for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless specifically closed.

Directing the NPS, BLM, USFS, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop strategies for providing access to areas where hunting, fishing, target shooting and other recreation are allowed but cannot be reasonably accessed by the public.

“CSF applauds Congress for passing the Natural Resources Management Act early in the 116th Congress and ensuring that this bill did not fall to political gridlock as it has in past Congresses,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “S. 47 includes critical provisions to increase public access to hunting, angling, and recreational shooting and is truly a win for sportsmen and women across the country.”

Prior to today’s vote, the CSC House Leadership sent a Dear Colleague Letter to Members of the House in support of favorably advancing S. 47. CSF also sent numerous action alerts to Congressional offices to ensure passage of this legislation. Additionally, CSF joined a support letter with nearly 50 other conservation organizations urging passage of S. 47.

“I am pleased to see Congress taking action with S. 47 to increase opportunities for hunters and anglers by permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to conserve millions of acres of lands for American families to enjoy for generations,” said Congressman Veasey, CSC Co-Chair. “S. 47 serves as a model for a true bipartisan process where everyone came away with a win.”

“I am pleased to see this bipartisan legislation that has been a priority for sportsmen and other conservationists for many years pass both chambers of Congress and head to the President’s desk,” said CSC Co-Chair Congressman Austin Scott (GA). “This bill clearly reflects the importance of America’s hunting, fishing, trapping and recreational shooting traditions, and I hope it will serve as a strong foundation for more sportsmen’s legislation to advance in the 116th Congress.”

“As the former Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and a conservationist, I believe this lands package is the right move for America’s sportsmen and women in order to ensure access to public lands for sporting activities,” said Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC). “This legislation is a win for the entire conservation community so we all can continue to enjoy God’s beautiful creation.”

The passage of S. 47 marks a historic day for land and water conservation and sportsmen’s access.