Hunting Heritage Act passed out of the U.S. House
Reprinted from Outdoors Weekly,
Sauk Rapids, Minnesota
By Bob Schranck
Outdoors Weekly staff columnist
A National Hunting Policy can be more than a dream when enough persuasive people unite to carry the battle forward. The Hunting Heritage Protection Act was passed out of the Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives July 26. It got a good start shortly before that when leaders representing business, wildlife agencies and conservation organizations joined together to push Congress to protect hunting on federal land.
They testified before the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation,Wildlife and Oceans for the Act. Three members of the National Hunting Policy Coalition, a group of nearly 70 sportsman organizations within the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America (WLFA) were called to testify during this hearing. Coalition speakers included Dick Cabela on behalf of Cabela's, Inc. and the WLFA; Frank Blaha for the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS); and David Walker, director of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and president of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Cabela, having a personal and professional interest in this legislation, "strongly supports enactment of H.R. 4790." He said, "the policy of no net loss of hunting opportunities codified in H.R. 4790 would benefit not only those who hunt, but those who depend on hunting and hunters for their livelihoods."
Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Chairman of the House Resources Committee and co-sponsor of the bill, also sees the "no net loss" provision as a vital element of this legislation.
Young said, "the no net loss language means if government closes lands to hunting, government must redesignate or open new lands to hunting." Testimony from the FNAWS representative followed a similar tone when Blaha said, "The Hunting Heritage Protection Act takes positive steps towards acknowledging the hunter's role in conserving our country's public lands and native species."
"Supporting the Hunting Heritage Protection Act is the least the federal government can do in return for the work the hunters have done to protect the lands they use."
The bill was initiated after President Clinton ignored a petition from the coalition of nearly 70 state and national conservation organizations asking for issuance of an executive order to direct federal land management agencies to protect sport-hunting opportunities on federal land including national forests and BLM holdings.
The administration signed a similar order in 1995 to improve fishing opportunities in U.S. waters and angler access. Key points of the Act:
- · A "No Net Loss" of hunting opportunities. The government is directed to maintain, at the minimum current levels of federal hunting land to be open for sportsmen's use. That means if a future administration wishes to establish by executive order a series of National Monuments that would close out hunters, the same amount of lands would be re-designated or newly established to provide hunting opportunities.
- · Federal recognition of the intrinsic value of hunting as recreation and as a wildlife management tool.
- · Establishes in law "Congress" recognition of the hunter's role as a conservationist.
- · Directs federal wildlife and land management agencies to "support, promote and enhance recreational hunting opportunities."
Opposition to the Act surfaced during the hearing when a witness from the Clinton administration. and Wayne Pacelle, vice president of the Humane Society of the United States -- an anti-hunting organization --spoke out against the bill. Despite that resistance, Committee Chairman Young said it is "my intention to take this thing to the floor for a vote in September." Success in the House will send the bill to the Senate.
"This legislation is certainly on the fast track, being introduced less than a month ago," commented Rick Story, vice president of The Wildlife Legislative Fund of America (WLFA). "It is a clear indication of the strong support this bill has in the House. It is also a barometer on how hard sportsmen and women across the country are working on this issue.
"We have a long way to go to get this bill through both bodies of Congress," he continued. "However, it would not be wise to underestimate the resolve and determination of those sportsmen and women concerning this issue."
WLFA is a national group based in Columbus, Ohio which provides legislative, legal defense and public education services to defend and advance sportsmen's rights in Washington, D.C. and in the states.