Before the Senate this December, among other stuff, is the Sportsman Heritage Act; a “Fiscal Cliff” of its own regarding the impact this bill will have on wilderness, wildlife and the outdoor experience. Fortunately given the significance of fiscal matters before the Senate they may not have an opportunity to put this controversial bill on the table. On the other hand, it may pass unnoticed under the shadow of other more pressing matters. That would be unfortunate and significant. Although the bill pertains to hunting, shooting and fishing specifically this ill conceived bill will affect a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. If you haven’t read or followed this bill, which I’m finding few have, and you fish or simply enjoy quiet places you’ll want to pay attention. Better yet, get involved.
The most significant problem with H.R.4089, the Sportsman Heritage Act, is the impact it will have on the way federal agencies make management decisions on public lands: Forest Service, BLM, wilderness, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic and national monument lands; decisions that affect wildlife, their habitats, and the outdoor experience. As it stands now the appropriate agencies analyze the effects that activities such as hunting, fishing and shooting have on public lands. The analysis is done according to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). For those not familiar with NEPA, the process requires that the cumulative affect from activities such as these that occur on public lands be analyzed. This critical and in-depth process is vital in managing public lands to preserve and protect wildlife and their critical habitats. In other words should H.R. 4089 pass those agencies that have been in charge of evaluating and implementing best practices to protect and preserve wildlife will no longer do so.
If you read the second statement in the bill Section 102 under Findings it states, “recreational anglers and hunters have been and continue to be among the foremost supporters of sound fish and wildlife management and conservation in the United States”. Again under Findings Section 102 the third reference states, “recreational fishing and hunting are environmentally acceptable and beneficial activities that occur and can be provided on Federal public lands and waters without adverse effects on other uses or users”. These are simply egregious statements. To say that hunting and angling have no significant impacts on wildlife, habitats and other users is not correct. I have been in the outdoor business for 25 years and have spent a lifetime recreating. There are few places left on this planet, let alone this country where we haven’t had significant impacts to habitats and those wildlife that depend on them for their existence.
Also of concern in H.R. 4089 is the Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act, which is one of the firearms industry’s top legislative priorities. The bill amends the Toxic Substances Control Act to clarify the original intent of Congress to exclude traditional ammunition; ammunition containing lead components and fishing tackle from regulation by the EPA.
There’s a reason that lead shot and sinkers have been banned in some states, several National Parks such as Yellowstone, because lead shot and sinkers when ingested by waterfowl and raptors is lethal. On the east coast prior to the ban of lead sinkers for angling 50% of all Loon deaths were attributed to the ingestion of lead sinkers that were left discarded by anglers. In the west desert prior to a federal ban on lead shot when hunting upland game and waterfowl, 30% of all Golden Eagles tested were found to have ingested lead shot. The impact these lead products have on waterfowl and raptors is devastating and well documented.
This bill was crafted with the hopes of enticing more users into hunting and fishing and raise badly need revenues. In the short term,it may have some impact on increasing the number of those who recreate,and sell more hunting and fishing licenses, yet I would suspect those increases will be incremental if at all. Those benefits from additional revenues, however will be short lived. Without the ability to regulate the impact of these uses and users and implement sound environmental practices to preserve and protect these critical habitats they will surely decline, the experience for those who now push to open these areas eventually eroded.
There are other aspects of this bill that are also concerning. There is a potential for more roads and structures to accommodate access in wilderness where deemed necessary, but the main points I’ve raised are what concern me and other the most. I urge you to write your senators and have them vote against this poorly crafted bill. Time is of the essence. Here is a link: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4089/text to the bill in its entirety. Like all bills you may need some help in deciphering it. I did. If you Google H.R. 4089 you’ll find plenty of viewpoints. As an angler and outdoor enthusiast, I feel H.B. 4089 will lead to the loss of critical habitats that are the lifeblood of our nations fisheries and over time significantly impact my fishing and outdoor experience. These areas need to be protect, need to be regulated not only for wildlife, but for those fortunate enough to experience them, today, tomorrow and in the future.