Congress approves monumental public lands package

Regular readers of this column may recall last November, I wrote about how all of us should be extremely concerned with the expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is the most important piece of legislation we have in America that provides funds for public access to lands and waters for hunting, fishing, camping, paddling, hiking, bird watching and more. Every county in our country has received funds from the LWCF to benefit all Americans.

In a broadly bipartisan act, Congress has just approved, by a large margin, the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47). This landmark legislation permanently reauthorizes the LWCF. It now only awaits the signature of President Trump. If he signs it, and we all certainly hope he does so, all outdoors enthusiasts will benefit by this new law.

Many conservation organizations put serious effort into seeing this legislation come to fruition. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation are just a few. One organization you may not be familiar with, but should be very thankful for if you consider yourself a sportsman, is the Congressional Sportsman Foundation (CSF). This organization operates deep in the political trenches of Washington D.C., and every state house across the country. The work of CSF may not be as easy to recognize as some other conservation organizations, but it is critical to the future of American sportsmen.

"CSF applauds Congress for passing the Natural Resources Management Act early in the 116th Congress and ensuring that this bill did not fall to political gridlock as it has in past Congresses," CSF President Jeff Crane said. "S. 47 includes critical provisions to increase public access to hunting, angling, and recreational shooting and is truly a win for sportsmen and women across the country."

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

The CSF lists the following parts of S. 47 as their priority provisions:

• Authorizing the transportation of archery equipment through National Park Service (NPS) Units.

• Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund with 3 percent or $15 million — whichever is greater — of annual appropriations made available for the purpose of securing additional access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other outdoor related activities. Recent studies estimate there are nearly 10 million acres of public lands in the west that are open to sporting activities, but the general public is currently unable to access these parcels due to a number of reasons. This provision, along with other provisions in S. 47, will help address this by truly making public lands public.

• Requiring Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands to be open for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless specifically closed.

• Directing the NPS, BLM, USFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop strategies for providing access to areas where hunting, fishing, target shooting and other recreation are allowed but cannot be reasonably accessed by the public.

The passage of S. 47 by Congress deserves the gratitude of voter for our elected officials. Many of us are often quick to judge and even quicker to comment in anger when politicians do something we disagree with. We should be equally vocal with praise when they do something right by us. Write your congressman and senator a note letting them know you appreciate their support of LWCF and all the good public lands provisions of S. 47. It’ll only take a minute to send an email.

"I am pleased to see this bipartisan legislation that has been a priority for sportsmen and other conservationists for many years pass both chambers of Congress and head to the President’s desk," said CSC Co-Chair Congressman Austin Scott (GA). "This bill clearly reflects the importance of America’s hunting, fishing, trapping and recreational shooting traditions, and I hope it will serve as a strong foundation for more sportsmen’s legislation to advance in the 116th Congress."

See you down the trail …