WASHINGTON — Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus House Co-Chair, Rep. Dan Boren introduced H.R. 3749, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act, late Wednesday in conjunction with the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation 20th Anniversary Banquet.
H.R. 3749 would direct the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to utilize the "multi-use" mandates in their agencies' respective land management plans to promote sportsmen's access to forest and public lands, enhancing the ability of Federal land managers to provide, promote, and plan for recreational uses that balance the needs and interests of all outdoor enthusiasts.
"I introduced this legislation to preserve the heritage of hunting, fishing and shooting on our Federal public lands. Numerous reports in recent years have demonstrated what sportsmen already know; access to public lands is being closed or constrained due to increased development along boundary lines," said Rep. Boren.
CSC House Co-Chair Rep. Paul Ryan and Vice-Chairs Rep. Mike Ross and Rep. Jeff Miller signed on as original co-sponsors of H.R. 3749. The bill currently has 39 co-sponsors, all members of the Caucus.
CSC Senate Member, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, along with co-sponsors CSC Co-Chairs, Sen. Mike Crapo and Sen. Ben Nelson introduced companion legislation in the United States Senate.
"The entire leadership of the CSC worked alongside the Foundation and many of our partners in crafting and introducing this legislation to coincide with the celebration of the CSC/CSF 20th Anniversary celebration," said CSF President Jeff Crane. "This bill is confirmation of the effectiveness of the Caucus and Foundation in producing legislation advantageous to the nation's hunters and anglers."
The legislation maintains that an "open until closed" approach is best. This would require that lands which are currently open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting remain open unless reasonable closures are determined to be necessary after proper notification to the public and to Congress has been made.
Specifically, the bill requires that all Federal public land planners evaluate the effects that management initiatives have on outdoors activities, and provide a clear analysis of how proposed actions would affect these traditional users of federal public lands.
The bill would provide federal land managers with the authority to designate specific areas for recreational shooting.
"Nearly 50 million men, women, and youth hunt and fish. Almost half of all hunters use federal lands, and in certain states the federal government owns the only open land available. Millions more engage in target shooting at ranges and informal sites on our public lands. We must protect and enhance sportsmen's access to federal lands and opportunities to participate in these activities," said Boren.
Nothing in the bill will open lands to hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting that by law or regulation are presently closed or require that a federal agency give preference to hunting, fishing, or shooting over other uses of Federal public land or water management priorities. The legislation maintains states' authority to manage fish and wildlife on Federal public lands and preserves the exclusive authority of states to require licenses or permits for sportsmen and sportswomen.
The Act authorizes for 10 years the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council and the Sporting Conservation Council as policy advisors to the Administration on issues relevant to wildlife conservation and sportsmen's communities.