WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich's (D-N.M.) Sportsmen's Act of 2015 cleared the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today with bipartisan support. Senator Heinrich introduced the bill in February with Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The Sportsmen's Act includes the text of Senator Heinrich's Hunt Unrestricted on National Treasures (HUNT) Act to improve access to public lands where hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation are permitted. Additional measures Senator Heinrich championed for New Mexico include reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), and giving small media groups and individuals easier access to film and photograph on public lands.
"The Sportsmen's Act has been a long time in the making, and I'm proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Senator Murkowski. Hunting and fishing are an integral part of our American heritage, but without our public lands, that tradition will be lost. This bill will make sure our kids and grandkids will be catching trout and chasing mule deer on our public lands for many years to come," said Sen. Heinrich. "Hunters and anglers alone spend more than $613 million per year in New Mexico, and outdoor recreation as a whole is directly responsible for 68,000 jobs in our state. The Sportsmen's Act will enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation, reauthorize key conservation programs, improve access to our public lands, and boost our economy."
The Sportsmen's Act has 24 cosponsors, including 10 members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Original cosponsors include U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who are members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is planning on holding a separate markup on additional provisions in the Sportsmen's Act under its jurisdiction soon. A full list of provisions in the Sportsmen's Act of 2015 and a copy of the bill are available here.
Among other provisions, the bill reported today would:
Hunt Unrestricted on National Treasures (HUNT) Act
Directs all federal public land management agencies to identify high priority federal lands where hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation are permitted but where access is non-existent or significantly restricted, and develop plans to provide access.
Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization (FLTFA)
Reauthorizes FLTFA, enabling the government to sell public land for ranching, community development, and other projects. The revenue allows federal agencies to acquire high-priority in-holdings from willing sellers.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Reauthorization
Permanently reauthorizes the LWCF, with set-asides for recreational access and for conservation programs managed by states.
Permits for Film Crews of Three People or Less
Directs the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to issue permits and assess fees on an annual-basis for commercial filming on federal land for crews of three people or fewer. This will allow for easier access for small media groups and individuals.
Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act
Requires Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands to be open for recreational hunting fishing and shooting unless specifically closed through an open and public process.
Equal Access to Justice Act and Judgment Fund Transparency
Requires public reporting of fees, awards, and payments provided under the Equal Access to Justice Act, as well as payments made from the Judgment Fund for claims against the federal government, along with relevant information pertaining to each case. The report would be made accessible online, with protections for private information regarding individual litigants.
Transporting Bows Across National Park Service Lands
Authorizes the lawful transportation of bows and crossbows on National Park Service lands. The National Park Service is prohibited from restricting the lawful transportation of bows and crossbows that remain in the vehicle while in a National Park unit.
Making Public Lands Public
Requires the greater of 1.5 percent or $10 million of annual Land and Water Conservation Funds be made available for the improvement of recreational access to existing federal lands with significantly restricted public access.
National Park Service Maintenance and Revitalization Conservation Fund
Establishes a National Park Service Critical Maintenance and Revitalization Conservation Fund to address high-priority deferred maintenance needs of the National Park Service with a prohibition on the use of funds for land acquisition.
National Historic Preservation Fund (NHPF)
Permanently reauthorizes the NHPF, the funding source of the preservation awards to the States, Tribes, local governments, and non-profits. The NHPF uses revenues of a non-renewable resource to benefit the preservation of other irreplaceable resources.