Hunters and anglers are viewing with apprehension and concern President Obama’s nomination of Sally Jewell to be the new Secretary of the Interior. As the steward of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands – held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – the Secretary plays a critical role in managing these lands including policies impacting access, hunting opportunities, and wildlife management. Jewell’s close association with interests hostile to hunters, hunting access, and traditional wildlife management has USSA watching her confirmation closely.
Hunters and anglers have something new to worry about in Washington, D.C.: “sequestration.” This technical term refers to looming automatic budget cuts—scheduled to go into effect in January – as a means of reducing the federal deficit. We’re facing these cuts because the Obama Administration, Senate, and House of Representatives have not been able to agree on a federal budget and pass specific bills to fund the government, while reducing the annual deficit. Without Congressional action to pass a budget and particular spending bills after the election, large automatic across the board funding cuts will be triggered in 2013.
There may still be light at the end of the tunnel for sportsmen who want to persuade Congress to pass legislation that protects hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal lands. Frustrated by an unending barrage of anti-hunting lawsuits aimed at closing the gates to sportsmen and women, the hunting community has united behind a series of provisions aimed at clarifying what once was thought to be a given: hunters, anglers and shooters (the most prominent supporters of wildlife conservation in America) belong on federal land where hunting, fishing and recreational shooting can take place.
In March and April, bi-partisan majorities in the House Natural Resources Committee and the full U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012. The most significant fishing, hunting, and shooting legislation passed in the last 15 years, the bill included two primary features: (1) confirmation of federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulings that the agency does not have authority to ban lead in ammunition or fishing gear and (2) game changing new law establishing that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands (totaling more than 700 million acres of public lands) are open to fishing, hunting, and shooting unless and until the agencies take specific action to impose closures or restrictions. And closures and restrictions must be necessary and based on sound science and evidence.
As regular U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance readers know, on April 17th, the House of Representatives passed the most important fishing and hunting bill in 15 years – HR 4089, The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act – by a lopsided 274 to 146 vote. A bipartisan majority of 235 Republicans and 39 Democrats voted yes. The bill has two fundamental features: (1) establishing that 700 million acres of federal public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are open to fishing, hunting, and recreational, as a matter of law, until or unless closed for good specific reasons and (2) confirming recent EPA decisions that the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act does not allow the agency to regulate lead in fishing gear or ammunition. The overwhelming support from America’s real conservationists, the angling and hunting community, demonstrates this is good public policy and ought to be non-controversial.
But nothing in Washington, D.C. ever is. So it’s little surprise that the usual suspects are screaming about the bill and peddling disinformation about what it does. We’re told that this fishing and hunting bill is really about opening lands to oil and gas development or forcing the National Park Service to allow hunting on the National Mall. Aside from the fact that these specious claims are utter nonsense, what prompts this over-the-top reaction to a fishing and hunting bill?
We know the answer for the animal rights radicals like HSUS, Peta and the Animal Legal Defense League etc. They simply oppose any and all hunting. We’re frankly thrilled to see them foaming at the mouth in opposition – it confirms the bill does indeed protect fishing and hunting on our federal public lands.
History teaches that the guys who hold the high ground are in the best position to win the battle. Hunters and anglers hold the moral high ground – our legacy of bona fide fish and wildlife conservation stands unmatched. But that won’t win the battles against our opponents in the anti-hunting lobby. To win we need to hold the political and legal high ground too.
We’re all too aware of the strategy by HSUS, PETA, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and others to bar hunters and anglers from federal public lands. They peddle a mix of disinformation, junk science, and outright lies about hunting and fishing to convince lawmakers, and the public, that our traditions are out of date and have no place on the public domain.