Photo by John GaleThe National Wildlife Federation (NWF), whose more than 4 million members and supporters include 1.8 million hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts, applauds Sen. Kay Hagan for introducing the Sportsmen's and Public Outdoor Recreation Traditions (SPORT) Act.
The SPORT Act, introduced Wednesday, contains a number of bipartisan proposals that will have a direct positive impact on hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. Of particular note, it exempts the Wildlife Restoration Trust and the Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Safety Trust Funds from the across-the-board cuts of sequestration so that critical fish and wildlife funding paid for by hunters and anglers are not held hostage by misguided political decisions. So far, $50 million in trust funds has been sequestered. A bi-partisan group of senators including Hagan, Mark Pryor, John Thune and James Risch, all leaders for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, recently sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urging the release of these funds.
The proposal also contains two separate provisions that will require 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to be used to expand public access to currently inaccessible federal public lands and inventory federal lands where hunting and fishing is legal but inaccessible. Sen. Martin Heinrich recently introduced the HUNT Act, legislation supported by several sportsmen organizations, that these provisions are modeled after.
Earlier this year, Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced S. 1335, the Sportsmen’s Act, drawing praise from sportsmen for including many of the same provisions now integrated in the SPORT Act, such as the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act that will allow the Secretary of the Interior to direct resources for the conservation of waterfowl species and improve sportsmen access.
Both packages include several important reauthorizations, including the Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act (FLTFA), a program that allows land management agencies to work with private land owners to secure critical in-holdings through “land for land” swaps. This provision creates jobs and generates revenue for the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We appreciate that Sen. Hagan’s bill would make this reauthorization permanent. Additionally, we are pleased to see reauthorizations in both packages for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), both of which leverage public and private conservation funding to secure resources for wetlands, migratory birds, and fish and wildlife habitat. NAWCA, a voluntary program, alone has protected or restored 26.5 million acres of wetlands during the last two decades and since its inception, NFWF has leveraged nearly $576 million in federal funds into $2 billion for on-the-ground and in-the-water conservation efforts.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association report highlighted in Valuing Our Western Public Lands, 6.1 million U.S. jobs are generated by sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts and our economy relies on the $646 billion that outdoor recreation activities like hunting and fishing contribute annually. Like hunting and fishing, our public lands legacy is a defining feature of our unique American heritage. We commend Sens. Hagan and Murkowski for acknowledging the importance of our public lands, conservation partnerships with private land owners, defending our access and opportunities, and protecting the integrity of our children’s inheritance.
Congress now has an historic opportunity to work together as senators and representatives to advance a single bi-partisan suite of bills that not only serves the interests of over 40 million hunters and anglers in America that they represent, but prioritizes our obligation and commitment to sustaining robust populations of fish and wildlife, healthy landscapes, and clean abundant water resources. Moving these bills through the legislative process will afford sportsmen and women the chance to make their voice heard. NWF is committed to building consensus, promoting compromise, and improving language that will develop broad agreement.
We encourage the Senate and the House to collaborate in a meaningful way with the Administration and we look forward to advancing this effort together with our members and partners to put forth a thoughtful package of comprehensive legislation that is enacted by the president. We are compelled by our obligation as dutiful stewards for our country’s fish and wildlife and natural resources to ensure that future generations of hunters and anglers inherit the rights and traditions that have shaped our national character and nourish our outdoor spirit.
About the Author
John Gale is the National Sportsmen’s Outreach Campaign Manager for the National Wildlife Federation. Before joining NWF, he directed a variety of grassroots conservation programs for Trout Unlimited. He is a fifth-generation Idahoan who grew up hunting and fishing the backcountry with his family. He works out of NWF’s regional office in Boulder, Colo.