Will Congress Show Respect for Hunters and Anglers in Third Attempt at Sportsmen’s Act?

by Bob Marshall

    

The Senate this month has been considering the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015. 


So sportsmen have cause to wonder which of these two clichés will apply:

A) The third time’s the charm.
B) Familiarity breeds contempt.

At this point there’s a 50/50 chance for either, which is why individual sportsmen need to get involved.

Some history: This is the third consecutive year such legislation has been introduced. Each edition has been packed with important – even critical – measures for public fishing and hunting, including:

• Expanding public access to public lands

• Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act


• Requiring federal land agencies to evaluate the impact of management plans on hunting and fishing opportunities

• Strengthening prohibitions on motorized vehicles in wild lands

• Expanding opportunities for gun ranges on public lands

• Expanding the use of Land and Water Conservation Funds for projects to increase access to recreational opportunities

• Prohibiting a ban of lead fishing tackle and lead ammunition

• Ordering an inventory of all lands open to public hunting, fishing, and recreation but are not accessible to the public

The package includes only one really controversial measure: Preserving the use of lead fishing tackle and ammunition. The use of lead shot for waterfowl was banned in 1991 because research showed birds ingesting spent pellets while feeding in wetlands and uplands were dying. 


So were protected species such as bald eagles after dining on prey or carrion containing lead pellets. The U.S.G.S. says that lead fishing tackle and spent bullets in aquatic environments might pose a threat to aquifers as they slowly dissipate.


A larger hurdle in years past has been bitter partisan bickering -- the ugly hallmark of recent congresses. Politicians that profess to love sportsmen quickly dump our concerns for a chance at vengeance on their political opponents. 


As with the two previous bills, this one is supported by a wide array of sportsmen-related organizations, 47 of which recently signed on to a letter to Congress urging passage.


A statement by Land Tawney, executive director of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, summed up their thoughts: “The significance of this bill and its benefits to hunting, fishing and funding for fish and wildlife habitat are impossible to quantify.”

There is some hope this third time could be the charm. It appears to be truly bi-partisan, with 14 co-sponsors divided evenly between conservatives and liberals. And with Republicans in control of the Senate this time, opposition from green Dems likely will not derail the package.

But given the history of the Congress on earlier versions of the bill, nothing is certain. There will be plenty of opportunities for mischief, especially in the House.

The best way we can prevent the second outcome -- contempt -- is to begin contacting our Congressional representatives today, letting them know we are watching.

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