Last month Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced The Sportsmen’s Act of 2013 with bipartisan support. The Act is a collection of several bills that will benefit hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and their access to public land. It is a package very similar to the 2012 Sportsmen’s Act introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) last year, which failed to pass by a small margin.
“When crafting this legislation, I also worked closely with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to ensure that priorities from both chambers were included,” Murkowski said in a news release. “The result is a streamlined package that strikes a careful balance in order to give this bill the best possible chance of being signed into law. I am very hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in advancing the Sportsmen’s Act.”
The package’s primary focus is on access to the vast public lands available across the United States. A report from the Department of the Interior 10 years ago found that 35 million acres of public land were not adequately available for sportsmen. Existing laws regarding public land and its use are often described as confusing and unclear, leading many sportsmen to avoid federal land. Included in the Sportmen’s Act is the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act of 2013 (H.R. 1825), which was introduced earlier this year by Murkowski and Congressman Dan Benishek (R-MI). H.R. 1825 will require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to create an “open until closed” policy on millions of acres of public land for sportsmen.
“There is an open policy for sportmen’s use of federal land,” Congressman Benishek previously told OutdoorHub. “It is not particularly spelled out in the use of federal land that specifically lists hunting, fishing, and shooting as a protected right because it was always assumed. This act actually codifies in statute that federal lands would be open until closed […] in order to protect access for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting on federal land.”
Other provisions in the Sportsmen’s Act of 2013 will include:
- The Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act, which enables the Secretary of the Interior to authorize any state to issue electronic duck stamps.
- The Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act, which excludes ammunition and fishing tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act and leaves decisions about tackle to state fish and game agencies and the USFWS.
- Bows Transported through National Parks, which allows bows to be transported across national park lands. Currently, firearms can be legally transported, but not bows.
“Passage of the Sportsmen’s Package is vital to protecting the rights of sportsmen and women nationwide,” said SCI President Craig Kauffman. “First and foremost, this bill will help secure hunting rights on our public lands for future generations. We encourage the Senate to take action as soon as possible.”
Read here for more information on The Recreational Fishing & Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act of 2013.