After two failed attempts in the 2012 and 2014 sessions of the U.S. Congress, Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Arkansas, introduced a bill that recognizes outdoorsmen across the country for their generations of conservation efforts, and seeks continued access to public lands and waters.
It’s the Sportsman’s Act of 2015, and has drawn support from sportsmen’s groups like the National Wildlife Federation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Trout Unlimited, and industry trades groups like the American Sportfishing Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
It was no secret congressional leaders tied to the Obama administration derailed 2014’s push for passage in the U.S. Senate. That senators from both sides of the aisle reintroduced the main portions of the 2014 package into this year’s debate is meaningful after the bipartisan backing last year’s bill had when two Republican and two Democratic senators were Sportsman’s Act authors.
“The No. 1 issue for sportsmen and women across the country is access,” Heinrich said. “ This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America’s thriving outdoor recreation economy. Hunters and anglers alone spend more than $465 million per year in New Mexico, and outdoor recreation as a whole is directly responsible for 68,000 jobs in our state. As an avid hunter myself, I remain deeply committed to preserving our outdoor heritage and treasured public lands for future generations to enjoy.”
To bring that message home, those New Mexico numbers pale in comparison to the more than $2 billion spent by Louisiana outdoorsmen and the $484 million in state taxes their activities produce for our state.
The spur for Western senators is a push from hunters, fishermen, hikers, birders and campers to keep federal lands in the hands of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The fear is from these user groups is a growing push from the states to turn over federal lands to the states, and what the states will do with those lands if that happens. Outdoorsmen point to a history of states selling off state lands to private industry/development, thereby denying millions of acres of hunting, fishing and camping lands to the historical users of these federal lands.
The Sportsman’s Act goes much further than that: It protects the rights of hunters and fishers, and demands federal land and refuge managers to include hunting, fishing and other recreational activities in management plans. It goes as far as protecting traditional use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle, and makes it easier for states to use federal distribution of taxes on ammo and hunting equipment to expand hunting, fishing and shooting sports activities on federal lands.
This bill needs your support.