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Old 10-05-2011, 03:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Bill reasserts recreational use of lands

Ken Perrotte's outdoors column
Date published: 9/29/2011

CONGRESSIONAL sportsmen's caucus members have reintroduced legislation designed to ensure that recreational fishing, hunting and shooting sports are supported as public activities on federal lands.

The "Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act" (H.R. 2834) was introduced earlier this month by Reps. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.).

The bill has 31 co-sponsors, including Rob Wittman of Virginia's 1st District.

Boren entered a similar bill in 2009. It died due to inaction in committee, as do most bills introduced in Congress.

The 2011 version has a lengthy list of supporting organizations, including the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, the American Sportfishing Association and more.

Some compare the bill's intent to that of the 1997 Refuge Improvement Act, which designated fishing and hunting as priority public uses of the National Refuge System.

A stated concern is the current ability for federal managers to arbitrarily curtail public land access. This is somewhat similar to the concerns that are expressed when fisheries managers curtail fishing for certain species based on allegedly dubious science.

Among the bill's mandates are requirements for federal land managers to consider hunting, fishing and target shooting in management plans. Any changes that effectively close or significantly restrict 640 or more contiguous acres of federal public land or water to access or use for fishing or hunting or activities related to fishing and hunting (or both) must be preceded by published notice, proof that state fish and wildlife agencies have been consulted, and written notice to Congress.

The provisions would also apply in designated "wilderness areas."

The Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing Sept. 9 during which some subcommittee leaders blasted the bill as unnecessary, basically labeling as imaginary threats from anti-hunting groups. A Department of the Interior witness worried some provisions of the bill could exclude management decisions from the National Environmental Policy Act and undermine the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Among those testifying in favor of the bill was Bill Horn, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance director of federal affairs. Horn is a former senior Interior Department official.

He countered claims that the act would open wilderness areas to motorized vehicles.

"H.R. 2834 specifies that hunting is 'necessary' so that hunters [and anglers] cannot be run off wilderness areas by federal judges deciding that these traditional activities are not necessary.


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