Sportsmen's Packages of the 114th Congress

Summary

Since the 112th Congress, the bipartisan leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) have worked to move a number of legislative packages through both chambers of Congress. These packages include some of the top priorities to sportsmen and women in the United States, and aim to protect and advance hunting and angling traditions.

Background

The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act (H.R. 2406), sponsored by CSC Co-Chairs Representatives Rob Wittman (VA) and Tim Walz (MN), and Vice Chairs Representatives Jeff Duncan (SC) and Gene Green (TX), was introduced to the House of Representatives in May 2015.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 (S. 405) was introduced on February 5 by CSC Members Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Martin Heinrich (NM), with original cosponsors, CSC Co-Chairs Senators Jim Risch (ID) and Joe Manchin (WV) and CSC Vice-Chairs Senators Deb Fischer (NE) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND). Truly a piece of bipartisan legislation, each Republican cosponsor is accompanied by a Democrat sponsor.

Most recently, the Sportsmen's Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act (H.R. 3173) was introduced in July 2015 by CSC House leadership with seven provisions, many similar to those within H.R. 2406 and S. 405.

Recent Activity

Support for the sportsmen’s packages has come both from CSC members and the conservation community. Members from the American Wildlife Conservation Partners submitted support letters for both H.R. 2406 and S. 405 to House and Senate CSC Members. 

President Jeff Crane testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands and Water, and Power and Oceans joint hearing on May 20 on the SHARE Act. This hearing followed two testimonies by Crane in March on S. 405 before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife.

Supplement: Sportsmen's Package Provisions

The SHARE Act includes the following provisions:

Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act - Makes the existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, and adds lead tackle to the exempted products. It also prevents the Departments of Interior and Agriculture from regulating the use of ammunition and fishing tackle based on lead content, except for the existing prohibition of lead used in waterfowl hunting.

Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act - Extends and increases states’ authority to allocate Pittman-Robertson funding for shooting ranges on public lands, and encourages federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local governments to maintain shooting ranges.

Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act - Enables the Secretary of Interior to authorize import permits of 41 polar bears legally harvested from approved populations in Canada before the polar bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 2008.

Recreational Lands Self-Defense Act - Authorizes the lawful possession of firearms pursuant to state law on lands managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a water resource development project.

Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee - Amends the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act to establish the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee to advise the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture on wildlife and habitat conservation, hunting, and recreational shooting. It also eliminates the existing Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council

Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act - Requires Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands to be open for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting unless specifically closed. National Parks and Wildlife Refuges will remain exempt from this provision, and BLM or USFS will remain authority to implement restrictions when needed. It revises the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Strategic Growth Policy to require the consideration of priority public uses such as hunting and fishing when adding new lands to the National Wildlife Refuge System. It also provides for the use of volunteers from the hunting community to cull excess animals on BLM, USFS, FWS, and NPS lands.

Farmer and Hunter Protection Act - Authorizes state extension offices to determine “normal agricultural practices.” This will remedy recent situations in which the Fish and Wildlife Service has interpreted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to include hunting of migrating birds on rolled rice fields as illegal baiting, resulting in fines up to $10,000 for farmers and hunters.

Transporting Bows Across National Park Service Lands - Authorizes that lawful transportation of bows and crossbows on National Park Service (NPS) lands. The NPS is prohibited from restricting the lawful transportation of bows and crossbows that remain in the vehicle while in a National Park unit.

Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization (FLTFA) - Reauthorizes FLTFA, enabling the government to sell public land for ranching, community development, and other projects. The revenue allows federal agencies to acquire high-priority in-holdings from willing sellers. It also requires funds from the federal portion of the program to be used for deferred maintenance activities and enhance hunting, fishing, and recreational access.

African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act - Reauthorizes the African Elephant Conservation Act (AECA) through FY2019. It authorizes ivory to be imported or exported under the AECA and the ESA if the raw ivory or worked ivory is solely for a museum; it was lawfully importable into the United States on February 24, 2014, regardless of when it was acquired; or the worked ivory was previously lawfully possessed in the United States.

Respect for Treaties and Rights - Prevents the bill from modifying of treaties and rights of federally recognized Indian tribes.

Interest on Obligations Held in the Wildlife Restoration Fund - Extends the date after which interest earned on obligations held in the wildlife restoration fund may be available for apportionment through 2026.

Permits for Film Crews of Five People or Fewer - Directs the Secretary of Interior to require a permit and assess an annual fee of $200 for any film crew of five persons or fewer, for commercial filming activities on federal lands and waterways administered by the Secretary.

 

With provisions similar to the SHARE Act, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act includes:

Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act  - Makes the existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, and adds lead tackle to the exempted products, leaving regulatory authority to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and state game and fish agencies.

Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act - Extends and increases states’ authority to allocate Pittman-Robertson funding for shooting ranges on public lands, and encourages federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local governments to maintain shooting ranges.

Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act - Enables the Secretary of the Interior to authorize import permits of 41 Polar Bears legally harvested from approved populations in Canada before the polar bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2008.

Farmer and Hunter Protection Act - Authorizes state extension offices to determine “normal agricultural practices.” This will remedy recent situations in which the Fish and Wildlife Service has interpreted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to include hunting of migrating birds on rolled rice fields as illegal baiting, resulting in fines up to $10,000 for farmers and hunters.

Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act - Requires Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands to be open for recreational hunting fishing and shooting unless specifically closed. National Parks and Wildlife Refuges will remain exempt from this provision, and the BLM or Forest Service will retain authority to implement restrictions when needed.

Permits for Film Crews of Five People or Less - Directs the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to issue permits and assess fees on an annual-basis for commercial filming on federal land for crews of five people or fewer.  This will allow for greater access for small media groups and individuals.

Carrying guns according to state law on Corps of Engineers water resource projects - Authorizes the lawful possession of firearms pursuant to state law on lands managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a water resource development project. 

Equal Access to Justice Act and Judgment Fund Transparency - Requires public reporting of fees, awards, and payments provided under the Equal Access to Justice Act, as well as payments made from the Judgment Fund for claims against the federal government, along with relevant information pertaining to each case.  The report would be made accessible online, with protections for private information regarding individual litigants.

Transporting Bows Across National Park Service Lands - Authorizes the lawful transportation of bows and crossbows on National Park Service lands.  The National Park Service is prohibited from restricting the lawful transportation of bows and crossbows that remain in the vehicle while in a National Park unit.

Making Public Lands Public - Requires the greater of 1.5 percent or $10 million of annual Land and Water Conservation Funds be made available for the improvement of recreational access to existing federal lands with significantly restricted public access.

HUNT Act - Directs all federal public land management agencies to identify high priority federal lands where hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation are permitted but where access is non-existent or significantly restricted, and develop plans to provide access. 

Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization (FLTFA) - Reauthorizes FLTFA, enabling the government to sell public land for ranching, community development, and other projects. The revenue allows federal agencies to acquire high-priority in-holdings from willing sellers.

North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization (NAWCA) - Reauthorizes NAWCA through 2019, providing matching grants to organizations, state/local governments, and private landowners for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of wetlands critical to migratory birds. This program generates three additional dollars for every federal dollar and reduces the annual authorization level from $75 to $50 million.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Reauthorization - Reauthorizes NFWF through 2019, directing conservation dollars to pressing environmental needs with matching private funds. NFWF supports conservation projects across the country and administers the Gulf Environmental Fund established to remedy harm from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

 

The Sportsmen's Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act includes:

National Fish Habitat Initiative (NFHI) Sense of Congress - Expresses the Sense of Congress that the mission of NFHI is to protect, restore, and enhance the Nation’s fish populations through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation and improve the quality of life for the American people

Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization (FLTFA) - Reauthorizes the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) authority to sell land to private land owners, counties, companies and others for ranching, community development and various projects

North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization (NAWCA) - Reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act for another five years. NAWCA is a voluntary land-owner friendly initiative that uses incentives to provide valuable matching grants that leverage federal dollars to protect habitat that is critically important for migratory birds

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act - The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) was established by Congress in 1984 to catalyze private investments to conserve fish, wildlife, and their habitats

Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act - In 2000, Congress approved the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) to help protect migratory birds, complementing the wetlands bird conservation accomplished under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act while also supporting efforts to conserve birds throughout their migratory life cycles across the Western Hemisphere

Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program Act - Reauthorizes a key FWS partnership program which allows the USFWS to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners to restore, enhance, and manage private land to improve fish and wildlife habitats

Making Public Lands Public - An authorization that would amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act and allocate 1.5% or $10 million

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