Heinrich Secures Sportsmen's Act, Public Lands Provisions in Energy Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 19, 2016) - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, secured key provisions of the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act, a bill he introduced with Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), as an amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act.

A list of Sportsmen's Act and public lands provisions Senator Heinrich worked to secure in the Energy Policy Modernization Act is available here.

Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mdm. President,

I rise today to speak about the bipartisan energy package we are considering here in the Senate.

Last year, my colleagues and I on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee worked together to pass an energy package that has strong bipartisan support.

My home state of New Mexico occupies a central place in nearly every facet of our nation's energy industry, including uranium enrichment, oil and gas production, refining, wind and solar energy, and the research and development of the energy technologies of the future at our national laboratories and research universities.

That's why I am working hard in the Senate to position New Mexico and the United States to take maximum advantage of new clean energy sources and innovative technologies while intelligently utilizing our reserves of traditional fuels.

And I would like to think this bill shows that we can look for areas where both parties can work together, even if we don't completely agree, and move our national energy policy forward.

This package also includes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

LWCF is one of America's most successful conservation programs. It has preserved our outdoor heritage, protected clean air and precious supplies of drinking water, and supported jobs across the country.

Permanent reauthorization of LWCF is a major victory for conservation, and I will continue to fight to fully fund LWCF, so we can make strong investments in our public lands.

But I would particularly like to focus my remarks today on the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act, which is a key part of this bill.

The Sportsmen's Act has been a long time in the making, and I'm proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

After previous attempts stalled on sportsmen's bills in recent years, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee worked hard to find areas of agreement, and we didn't allow controversial amendments from either side of the aisle to derail our effort.

Hunting and fishing are an integral part of our American heritage. Without our public lands, that tradition will be lost. Our public lands belong to all of the American people.

Like many New Mexicans, some of my favorite memories with my family are from camping, fishing, and hunting in New Mexico's National Forests and on BLM lands.

I will always remember taking my son Carter on his first backcountry elk hunting trip in the Carson National Forest.

The bull elk that we brought home fed our family for the entire year, but the experience of backpacking into the high country, sleeping on the ground and hearing the elk bugle around us will feed my son's imagination for his entire life.

Traditions like hunting, hiking, camping, and fishing are among the pillars of Western culture and a thriving outdoor recreation economy.

This bipartisan package of sportsmen's bills includes a broad array of measures to enhance opportunities for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts, it improves access to public lands, and it reauthorizes critical conservation programs.

These programs include the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which provides grants to organizations, state and local governments, and private landowners for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of critical wetlands for migratory birds.

The National Fish Habitat Conservation Program, which encourages partnerships among public agencies, tribes, sportsmen, private landowners, and other stakeholders to promote fish conservation;

And reauthorizes Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization, to direct revenue from the sale of public land to the acquisition of high priority conservation lands from willing sellers to expand fish and wildlife habitat and public recreational opportunities.

Further, this bipartisan package will help boost the outdoor recreation economy.
Nationally, according to The Outdoor Industry Association, more than 140 million Americans make their living or make outdoor recreation a priority in their daily lives.

When they do that, they end up spending 646 billion dollars on outdoor recreation resulting in quality jobs for another 6.1 million Americans.

In my home state of New Mexico--a small state with just two million people--outdoor recreation generates more than 6 billion dollars a year. It provides 68,000 jobs and 1.7 billion dollars in wages and salaries.

A survey done by New Mexico Game and Fish found that sportsmen alone spend more than $613 million per year in the state annually.

This boost to our economy is felt by small business owners, outfitter guides, hotels, restaurants, and the entire local community-especially in rural areas.

Yet for far too many hunters and anglers, it gets harder and harder every year to find a quiet fishing hole to fish for trout, or a secluded meadow to chase an elk.

As sportsmen face more and more locked gates and "No Trespassing" signs, it's more important than ever that we keep our public lands open and welcoming to hunters and anglers.

I've heard from sportsmen who have found roads on Bureau of Land Management lands closed without notice to public access.

I myself have experienced the frustration of running into a locked gate on roads that used to be open to public access.

As opportunities for hunting and fishing shrink, we're losing the next generation of hunters and anglers who will fund tens of billions of dollars in conservation and restoration through the purchase of Duck Stamps and by paying taxes on ammunition, tackle, and motorboat fuel, all of which are dedicated directly to the conservation of fish and wildlife.

This bipartisan sportsmen's package will go a long way toward solving many of the problems hunters and anglers face in accessing and using our nation's incredible public lands.

I am particularly pleased that the package includes my legislation, the HUNT Act, which requires public land agencies to identify high priority "landlocked" public lands under their management that currently lack legal public access.

"Landlocked" public lands are technically open to the public but are sometimes impossible to reach legally because there are no public trails or roads leading to them.

Under the HUNT Act, federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are required to work with states, tribes, and willing private landowners to provide public access to those "landlocked" areas that have a significant potential for hunting, fishing, or other recreational uses.

A study by the Center for Western Priorities estimated that at least half a million acres of public lands in New Mexico are currently "landlocked" with no legal public access.

The HUNT Act is the first dedicated effort to re-open these lands to the public.
Public lands-like the Gila Wilderness, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument-are some of the most special places to hunt and fish on the planet.

These are the places that make New Mexico so enchanting and make our nation so special.

That's why I am so excited that this natural resources amendment also includes the establishment of two wilderness areas within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.

New Mexicans have a deep connection to the outdoors and benefit from the recreation, wildlife, water, and tourism opportunities that wilderness provides.

For many years now, a broad coalition of northern New Mexicans has worked to conserve the Rio San Antonio and Cerro del Yuta-or Ute Mountain-areas. I have no doubt that future generations will be grateful for their years of work and support.

These two roadless areas provide important security habitat for elk, mule deer, black bears, golden eagles, and American pronghorn.

I want to thank the local community who have worked for decades to put this proposal together, as well as Senator Tom Udall and former Senator Jeff Bingaman for their leadership. 

Designating these two new wilderness areas completes a national example of community-driven, landscape-scale conservation that will preserve the culture, natural resources, and economy of this stunning part of New Mexico.

I am proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure we are making the best use of our natural resources.

And I am hopeful that, thanks to our vote today our kids and grandkids will be catching trout and chasing mule deer on our nation's incredible public lands for years to come.