With so much negative news coming on the political landscape these days, it’s nice to hear news of some good things happening, particularly when it’s a win for sportsmen. The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the Natural Resources Management Act of 2019 (S. 47). It’s also known as the, “Public Lands Package.” The Senate overwhelmingly passed the act on February 12 by a vote of 92-8, and it’s been sent to President Trump’s office for signature. The president has already indicated that he will sign it into law.
Among the positives that come with this act, it creates six new National Parks Service units, establishes new protections for wildlife habitats, blocks mining near some national parks, designates 1.3 million acres of wilderness, and creates additional hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities. It also includes measures to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
A report recently released from the Sportsmen’s Alliance shared the following…
“The passage of this legislation is a critically important achievement for conservation and the future of hunting,” said Evan Heusinkveld, Sportsmen’s Alliance President. “While there are many people to thank, and many organizations who have contributed to this effort, we’d be remiss not to mention the important and key leadership provided by Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski from the Alaska delegation.”
The package contains many provisions important to hunters, anglers, trappers and recreational shooters. One of the key provisions for the Sportsmen’s Alliance is the “Open Until Closed” policy, the establishment of which has been a key federal priority of the organization since its inception in 1978.
“Open Until Closed” requires lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to be open for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless specifically closed for cause.
“For decades, anti-hunting organizations have pressed lawsuits challenging hunting on public land, arguing that federal agencies must jump through laborious procedural hoops to open public land to hunting– resulting in a system where one small procedural mistake would block hunting,” said Heusinkveld. “This action helps to prevent lawsuits by national anti-hunting groups attempting to use the courts to stop hunting opportunities on public land, and will protect hunting and increase hunting access on millions of acres of public land, similar to protections on wildlife refuge lands that we championed back in 1997.”
Other important issues that the package addresses include:
- Amends the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, informally known as the Pittman-Robertson (PR) Act, to allow certain funds to be used for shooting sports facilities.
- Includes the WILD Act, which strengthens wildlife conservation by reauthorizing sportsmen’s wildlife conservation programs, assists in the management of invasive species and promotes anti-poaching programs.
- Allows the permitting or leasing of public land for shooting and target ranges.
- Authorizes the transportation of archery equipment through National Park Service lands.