Hunter and angler priorities have been put on the backburner during these unpredictable times, and rightfully so given the impact of COVID-19. However, opportunities lie ahead. BHA’s policy priorities not only benefit hunters and anglers afield; they also strengthen gateway communities and local economies that depend on recreation and tourism. In fact, more Americans are directly employed by hunting and fishing oriented companies (483,000) than oil and gas extraction (180,000). Without funding to consolidate inholdings, restore damaged roads and bridges, connect wildlife habitats and invest in rural communities, management efficiencies won’t be realized, and recreational opportunities will be further reduced.
Here are three conservation important priorities that will also boost the economy and provide much-needed jobs to American workers.
The Great American Outdoors Act
Bipartisan legislation introduced by 55 senators, the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) dedicates the full $900 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and allocates $9.5 billion over five years to address the maintenance backlogs of our public land management agencies, including the Forest Service, National Parks Service, National Wildlife Refuge System, Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Education.
Our public land management agencies have lists of shovel-ready projects that restore recreational infrastructure (including trails, roads and bridges), quickly generate jobs, stabilize local economies and promote consumer spending from hunters, anglers and other recreationists eager to access our public lands and waters.
Another crucial economic component to the GAOA is the directive for increased access to public lands for the hunters and anglers who make significant contributions to our nation’s booming $887 billion outdoor recreation economy. Providing full and dedicated funding to LWCF – funded by offshore oil and gas revenues, not taxpayer dollars– will reinvest in on-the-ground projects that address checkerboarded land ownership, reduce habitat fragmentation and tackle the inventory of more than 15.87-million acres of state and public lands in the West that are landlocked without legal public access. Public access is the cornerstone of our national hunting and fishing heritage and is key to the recruitment of new hunters and anglers.
Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations
Budgeting for Fiscal Year 2021 will be on top of appropriators’ lists once they return to regular business. Given the current circumstances and with budget funding levels out the window, BHA supports stable and adequate funding allocations for many key conservation and access programs. These programs include LWCF, the BLM Land Resources subaccount, the BLM Wildlife and Fish Habitat Management account, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish Habitat Action Plan & Partnership, the National Wildlife Refuge System’s operations and maintenance account, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay restoration programs and FS non-fire programs like Vegetation and Watershed Management and Wildlife, Fisheries Habitat Management accounts … to name just a few!
BHA also encourages appropriators to remove a harmful sage grouse rider that compromises the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ability to utilize important conservation tools within the Endangered Species Act should populations continue to decline. This rider ties the hands of wildlife managers across the country, muzzles science and threatens the livelihood of rural communities that depend on sagebrush country for economic stability.
Transportation and Infrastructure
Transportation and infrastructure-related legislation is up for reauthorization this year. BHA supports adequate funding and the creation of programs that integrate long-term plans that reduce costs and impacts to fish and wildlife while increasing job stability. We’re prioritizing programs that fund wildlife crossing structures– like fencing, vegetative treatments, underpasses and over passes – for our highways, roads, trails and bridges, improve flood control and increase habitat connectivity for terrestrial and aquatic species, reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, and fund the construction and repair of roads across the National Forest System. Programs that implement these important components are essential to ecosystems and local communities that rely on hunters and anglers and wildlife-related recreation.
Editor's note: See this recent addition to our priorities list and take action here!
Hunters, anglers and all outdoor recreationists want easily accessible maps of our public lands at our fingertips to avoid trespassing on places without legal public access. Thanks to Sens. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Angus King (I-ME) and Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Russ Fulcher (R-ID), who have introduced bicameral legislation, the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act, this is possible.
The MAPLand Act requires public land management agencies to collect data on accessible public lands and allows hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists the ability to recognize these areas and avoid trespassing on private lands. The public will easily be able to download detailed maps of public roads and trails with GPS technology and smart devices – even while in the field. This new wealth of readily available information would allow hunters and anglers discover new opportunities on our public lands and waters and boost our nation’s annual $887-billion outdoor recreation economy.