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.
Over the past few months, the sportsmen’s community has been abuzz over the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012. Since being passed by the U.S. House in April, the U.S. Senate has been working on its own version of this pro-sportsman legislation.
Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Thune (R-SD) have complied a Senate version of the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act which includes a host of pro-sportsmen bills as an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill. The amendment is packed full of great things for sportsmen including critical legislation clarifying that the U.S. EPA doesn’t have that authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle. Despite the fact the EPA has stated twice that it doesn’t have this authority, the Center for Biological Diversity and other anti-hunting groups recently filed another lawsuit seeking to force an EPA ban on traditional ammunition.
The House passed version of the bill included one landmark provision that so far isn’t included in the Senate package. This provision stated that lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are deemed open for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless closed.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will be offering a separate amendment to include this language with the rest of the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act in the Senate. If the Murkowski amendment is added to this already great bill it would be the icing on the cake for sportsmen.
The Murkowski amendment would be a real game-changer for protecting hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting on public lands, here’s why:
1. Your Hunting Rights Are Not Absolute.
Your right to hunt, fish, and trap can be taken away easier than you realize.
In fact, they are generally treated as “privileges” in the eyes of the law (not much different from driving.) Legislators and government officials have the ability to easily amend, restrict, or prohibit hunting, fishing, and trapping.
Threats to your rights pop up across the country constantly. They come from legislators, government agencies, and at the ballot box and can come from all levels of government – the local, state, and national levels.
The behind the scenes story about how the California Senate came to vote to prohibit bear and bobcat hunting with hounds is a real eye-opener to hunters about how state government actually functions in the Golden State. And it should be a lesson to sportsmen nationwide as it would be naïve to believe this couldn’t happen elsewhere.
On May 21, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1221 by a vote of 22 – 15. It takes 21 votes to pass a bill. When a vote is this close, it’s really important to know who sportsmen should hold accountable.
Here are the four Senators most responsible for the hunting ban:
The answer is yes, of course. Especially if you were supposed to be at work, your work was not completed prior to your hunting trip, or if you lacked time off to actually miss work.
But could you lose your job just because you went hunting? It might surprise you to learn that Dan Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission, nearly lost his after going on a mountain lion hunt… in Idaho.
Mountain lion hunting has been prohibited in California since a 1990 ballot issue gave the species special protection. However, it continues to be completely legal in neighboring Idaho, which uses hunting as a means to control cougar numbers.
As you might imagine, we spend a good deal of time talking to lawmakers about legislation that could cause problems for sportsmen or asking for their support for pro-hunting proposals.
Sometimes you get a direct, to-the-point answer like “yes, I support your position” or “no I don’t.” But many other times careful listening is required.
The language of the lawmaker can be a crafty and evasive dialect. To my knowledge, no one has yet to create a good “politician to English/English to politician field guide” for translating and no university has it listed as a foreign language class.
Whether you’re making calls to defeat California Senate Bill 1221, which would ban hunting bears with hounds, or working to support legislation such as HR 4089, which protects hunting, fishing, and shooting on public land, here are a few responses you might hear from lawmakers and a few hints about what they are really saying.
The last 30 days have been chock full of key events that have a tremendous impact on the future of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting in America – events that are leading many sportsmen and women to draw conclusions about (or further cement their conclusions about) Democratic decision makers.
- In the nation’s capitol, Congress debated sportsmen’s access to public land, whether EPA could regulate ammunition and fishing tackle, whether recreational shooting should be permissible on national monument land where compatible, and last whether the United States should allow the importation of legally hunted trophies.
- In California, the Senate debated whether to ban hunting black bears and bobcats using hounds.
- In Ohio, lawmakers protested colleagues holding clay bird shooting events as political fundraisers in the wake of a school shooting that occurred in February 250 miles away from the proposed event.
When it comes to asserting the rights of animals, the end truly justifies the means for the animal rights lobby, and their minions in Congress and state legislatures across the country. This phenomenon has been on stark display in the United States House of Representatives and in the California Senate over the last 30 days:
Some of My Best Friends are Hunters
On April 17th, the U.S. House passed the most significant piece of pro-sportsmen legislation in 15 years, as HR 4089 was approved 274-189. Although the vote included 39 Democrats, a group of their left-leaning colleagues led the charge to gut the bill through a series of amendments. The most disgusting part of this maneuver was to see several of them profess their love and admiration for hunting and fishing prior to proposing amendments that would neuter the very hunting, fishing and shooting protections that HR 4089 provides.