By Paul Babaz, SCI President Elect
Today, hunter-advocates from around the country will head to Capitol Hill for over 200 meetings with members of Congress and their staff. Members of Safari Club International (SCI) are in Washington, D.C. this week to discuss issues that are important to hunters and to promote the conservation of wildlife worldwide.
With our 50,000 members and 200 chapters, we pride ourselves on being politically engaged at the local, state, and national levels. Through our Hunter Advocacy Department, we work with legislators and policymakers to develop, support, and communicate positions on important issues, laws, regulations, and policies. Through this and other efforts we promote safe, legal, and ethical hunting and work to educate the public on the importance of hunting and sustainable-use conservation.
This year, our Lobby Day efforts are focused on three key legislative positions: Supporting The Sportsmen’s Act, amending the Antiquities Act, and modernizing and improving the Endangered Species Act.
Supporting the Sportsmen’s Act
- 733, the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, was introduced earlier this year by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The bill is sponsored by members from both sides of the aisle who are working together to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting across the United States.
This bill confirms that U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands are open to hunting unless expressly closed, and it increases procedural requirements for any closure. The bill directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service (NPS), USFS, and BLM to identify and recommend solutions to address lands with restricted or limited access to hunting. The legislation also provides clarification that the NPS should use qualified volunteers from the hunting community to assist in the reduction of wildlife overpopulations. SCI supports S.733 as an excellent foundation for comprehensive legislation to address many issues of interest to the hunting community.
Amending the Antiquities Act
SCI is proud to support S.33, the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act. This legislation complements the Executive Order signed by President Trump on April 26, 2017, which called for a review of designations under the Antiquities Act. This bill removes the unilateral power to designate monuments granted to U.S. presidents through the Antiquities Act of 1906.
S.33 requires congressional approval for any proposed National Monument, compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and state legislative approval of the designation by each state in which the proposed monument is located. This bill will prevent anti-hunting groups from unduly influencing presidents to make decisions on monuments based on emotion rather than science.
SCI is proud to support S.33 and hopes to also see legislation like S.3460, the Local Community and Sportsmen Input in Monuments Act, introduced in the last Congress by Senator Steve Daines (R. MT). This legislation expressly protects hunters from losing valued hunting opportunities due to National Monument designations and administrative transfers from one agency to another. We hope to the reintroduction of this vital bill in this legislative session.
Modernizing and Improving the Endangered Species Act
Since the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), success in the recovery and conservation of species has been hindered by significant flaws in the legislation. These flaws have led to excessive litigation, a breakdown of federal and state agency cooperation, and a lack of resources to accomplish goals that are insufficiently defined by the law. Though there are no bills yet introduced that comprehensively address all the problems that the ESA poses for hunting and sustainable use conservation, SCI members will be discussing goals for future legislation during their meetings today.
During the 115th Congress, SCI hopes to see legislation that amends listing obligations under the ESA to provide that the FWS cannot list a species without strong scientific support that an ESA designation will benefit conservation efforts. We also hope to see legislation increasing the role states play in species listings, recognizing hunting as a conservation strategy, limiting FWS authority over foreign species listings, and defining delisting requirements.
With these three legislative goals in mind, we at SCI look forward to working with members of Congress, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and President Trump to ensure that hunters’ rights are protected and opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting are expanded throughout the United States.
Paul Babaz is the President-Elect of Safari Club International (SCI). SCI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife, education of the people, and the protection of hunters’ rights.