By John Whipple, President, Safari Club International
While the gun votes may be over for the moment in Washington, the recent debate shed some light on America’s sporting heritage and the bipartisan support that exists to protect hunters’ rights. While hunters sincerely thank our legislators for their recent Second Amendment support, we must continue to preserve and protect the future of hunting in America.
In January of this year, Senator Murkowski of Alaska introduced legislation, S. 170, which aims to preserve and expand fishing, hunting and recreational shooting on Federal public lands. More recently, a complementary bill in the House, H.R. 1825, introduced by Congressman Dan Benishek of Michigan, provides the companion legislation for Sen. Murkowski’s bill in protecting access to, and management of, public lands for hunters and anglers. Both S. 170 and H.R. 1825 are titled the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act.
As President of Safari Club International (SCI), I can say our members were elated to see the introduction of these two bills. Similar legislation passed last year in the House on a bi-partisan vote, but never made it through the Senate. If the current legislation is passed, what has been assumed for a generation as Americans’ birthright will be legally implemented, as the bills require the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to properly manage our public lands for hunting and angling.
This week, nearly 150 SCI members are taking to Capitol Hill to ask both the Senate and House members and their key staff to approve this important legislation. With more than 200 meetings scheduled on Thursday, our leaders will ensure their elected representatives understand that the future of our outdoor heritage depends on passing comprehensive legislation that protects hunting on hundreds of millions of acres of public lands.
In addition to S. 170 and H.R. 1825, our members will also lobby on behalf of other legislation critical to America’s sportsmen and women, including:
- H.R. 1818 and S. 847 which will allow for the importation of legally hunted polar bears harvested in Canada prior to its listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- H.R. 322 which will protect traditional hunting and fishing equipment.
Let’s be clear, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act will recognize the rightful place of recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting on federal lands and protect hunting, fishing and shooting opportunities from being closed to the public without justification. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “A new survey shows 79 percent of the American public approve of hunting,” which was published in conjunction with Responsive Management. In addition, last July President Obama stated, “We recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation, that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.”
Furthermore, President Obama and Former President George W. Bush both authorized Federal Advisory Committees to provide public input directly to the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior on policies related to hunting and hunting access. The current Federal Advisory Committee, the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, even adopted a 52-point plan to improve hunting and conservation in the U.S. that was developed under President Bush.
Despite broad consensus that hunting is a vital part of the American landscape, the existence of Federal Advisory Committees, and a 10 year action plan for hunting and recreation, the U.S. Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) still does not prioritize hunting as recreation on public lands. Permanent recreational access for hunters on the millions of acres of public land across our great nation should be a priority for the FS and BLM, and Congress must compel the agencies to act in accordance to the interests of the American public.
For more than 80 years, America’s hunters have willingly paid excise taxes and permit fees that serve as the primary source of direct funding for state wildlife conservation agencies. We’ve been doing our fair share of land management and conservation and it’s time our efforts are protected. Safari Club International will continue to advocate for hunters, anglers and recreational shooters at all levels of government until our voice is heard across our great nation.
Thanks to the team at Safari Club International – to find out how you can help or to learn more about hunters’ rights please click here http://www.scifirstforhunters.org/