The Sportsmen’s Act

The Sportsmen’s Act

Current Situation

In previous Congresses, various bills referred to as the “Sportsmen’s Act” were introduced and considered. These bills were packages of numerous individual provisions important to the recreational fishing, hunting and shooting sports communities. Some of the provisions included in these packages that ASA supported included a modification to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which would block attempts to federally ban lead in recreational fishing tackle, as well as several provisions to improve recreational fishing and hunting access on federal lands. In both sessions of Congress, the bills failed to become enacted, not because of the merits of the bills themselves but rather as a result of partisan politics.

A total of three bills have been introduced in this Congress that could be classified as “Sportsmen’s Acts.” In the Senate, the Sportsmen’s Act has essentially been split into two separate bills, based on committees’ jurisdictions. S. 1514, the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation Act (or HELP for Wildlife Act) passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee. The bill contains a number of provisions that will conserve fishing access and fishery resources. Specific provisions supported by ASA include:

  • Protections for traditional fishing tackle from unwarranted regulation by the EPA.
  • Authorizing the National Fish Habitat Partnerships program which will conserve, restore and enhance fish habitat throughout the nation, providing better fishing opportunities.
  • Provisions beneficial to the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Reauthorization of important conservation programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
  • Authorization of the U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center

The other Senate bill, S. 733, the Sportsmen’s Act, has passed out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Among other provisions, this bill would require federal land management agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of recreational fishing and hunting on federal land, and that federal land must be open for recreational fishing and hunting unless the managing agency acts to close the lands under a specified set of procedures.

In the House, a single bill has been introduced – H.R. 3668, the SHARE Act. This bill contains most of the provisions listed above. It passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee and is expected to receive a vote on the House floor this Fall.

Our Position

ASA believes these provisions of the Sportsmen’s Act, if passed, would be one of the most significant angler and hunter pieces of legislation in decades. We, therefore, remain resolute in ensuring they are signed into law. In doing so, we put priority on advancing the parts that would have the most positive impact on the sportfishing industry, which are protecting fishing tackle from unwarranted federal regulation; enhancing public access to public lands and waters; and codifying the National Fish Habitat Partnership.

Issue Background

During the 112th Congress in September of 2012, Sen. John Tester (D-MT) and 14 cosponsors introduced the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S. 3525), a package of 17 bills. The three most important to the recreational fishing community were an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NHFCA), and Making Public Lands Public (MLPL). The bill boasted the bipartisan support of 52 cosponsors, but hit a budget point of order in November of 2012. Prior to voting on the point of order, party politics consumed the allotted Congressional floor time for debate and ultimately sank the bill.

In the next session of Congress, on July 18, 2013, Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a Sportsmen’s Package (S. 1335) in the Senate. This package of 11 bills, including the Recreational Hunting and Fishing Heritage Opportunities Act (Heritage) as well as a modification to TSCA, which would block attempts to federally ban lead in recreational fishing tackle.

A few months later on November 6, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced the Sportsmen’s and Public Outdoor Recreation Traditions Act – the SPORT Act (S. 1660). As in the Murkowski bill, this package contained TSCA and Heritage provisions. The SPORT Act did include the MPLP provision and an exemption for the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund from future federal budget sequesters. Neither the Murkowski bill nor the Hagan bill received endorsement by the sportfishing, hunting or conservation communities because the bills were not bipartisan.

On February 5, 2014, the House of Representatives passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or the SHARE Act (H.R. 3590) sponsored by Representative Bob Latta (R-OH). This bill contained the same two important provisions to the sportfishing community as the Murkowski and Hagan bills.

On February 4, 2014, Senators Murkowski and Hagan introduced the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, S. 1996. This package consisted of 12 bills, had 10 additional cosponsors compared to the SPORT Act and SHARE Act, and contained the TSCA, Heritage, and MPLP provisions.

The U.S. Senate in July of 2014 failed to pass a vote that would have moved the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act forward. Eighty-one amendments were offered to the bill, many of which were not endorsed by the sporting community or germane to the original bill. The vote and subsequent failure had nothing to do with the merits of the bill and much to do with the upcoming mid-term elections and discord across party lines. Even so, the bipartisan vote in the House and bipartisan set of sponsors in the Senate highlight how conservation issues that impact sportsmen and women can cut through partisan politics.

These previous attempts at passage have laid the groundwork for early introduction of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 – S. 405. On February 5, 2015, Sens. Murkowski (R-AK) and Heinrich (D-NM) unveiled a reenergized Sportsmen’s package along with four other cosponsors. Collectively, the package contained 14 measures that would benefit our nation’s sportsmen and women by providing increased access to our public lands and waters, improving fish and wildlife management and protecting the use of traditional fishing tackle.

The Act, as it was before being modified by the two committees of jurisdiction, included several provisions benefiting the sportsmen community, some of which are:

  • Making Public Lands Public Act – Increases access for angling, hunting and recreational shooting on federal lands by directing 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to ensure access to fishing, hunting and other recreational activities.
  • The Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act – Recent, ongoing attempts to overregulate sportfishing equipment in a non-scientific fashion by anti-fishing interests represent one of the largest threats to the sport. This section will block attempts to federally ban lead in recreational fishing equipment and ammunition by clarifying the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • The Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act – Directs U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management managers to facilitate recreational fishing and hunting on public lands and waters and to evaluate how these traditional outdoor activities will be impacted by the implementation of new regulations, management plans or land use initiatives.

This bipartisan bill would have provided increased access for recreational opportunities across the nation as well as the protection of our fishing and shooting heritage. However, it would have benefited even more if the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NFHCA) was added to the package. NFHCA is a national conservation investment strategy that would extend the impact of our nation’s conservation dollars. The Act’s goal is to foster and facilitate landscape-scale, regional fish habitat conservation projects that originate in local communities, with anglers and conservation groups working together with state and federal agencies.

In the Senate, passage of the Sportsmen’s Act has been much more complicated than the House; one reason being that there are two committees with jurisdiction over different policy issues in a sportsmen’s bill in the Senate, versus only one in the House. Both the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s and the Environment and Public Works Committee’s subsets of the Sportsmen’s Act passed out of committee, but the EPW portion proved to be more contentious. Already containing provisions opposed by many Senate Democrats, a couple “poison pill” amendments were added in committee making it even more problematic for Democrats.

Due in large part to the contentiousness of the EPW portion of the bill, Senate leadership decided to attempt to advance only the ENR portion of the Sportsmen’s Act. That was successfully achieved as an amendment to the Energy Bill, which passed the Senate on April 20. By a vote of 85-12, the Senate approved amendment #3234 as part of a comprehensive Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012), which included authorization of the National Fish Habitat Partnership program and requires certain public lands to be open for recreational fishing and hunting unless specifically closed through an open and public process.

While ASA hailed this as a victory, as several of our top priorities were included (e.g., better facilitating recreational access to certain federal lands, authorization of the National Fish Habitat Partnership Program), other priorities contained in the EPW portion were left behind, most notably an exemption from unwarranted EPA regulation for lead fishing tackle.

On Feb. 26, 2016, the SHARE Act passed the House by a vote of 242-161. ASA was also pleased that an amendment was defeated that would have stripped language that prohibits the National Park Service from implementing unwarranted fishing closures without state approval, like what occurred at Biscayne National Park. The House also passed an Energy Bill of its own – H.R. 8; the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015.

After the Energy Bill’s passage in the Senate on April 20, 2016, the bill was conferenced with the House’s energy bill and the name became the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016 with the same senate bill number, S. 2012.

While the Senate and House worked to reconcile differences in the energy bills passed by each chamber over the next few months, the year, congressional session, and Obama administration was coming to an end. After the November elections, there was a new Trump administration surprisingly on the horizon and a Republican majority in both chambers of congress. The conference process of the Energy Bill had been halted in lieu of the elections and now the bill was doomed to fail passing for another congressional session. Republican leaders in the Senate, who had been pushing for this legislation to pass, like Sen. Murkowski (R-AK), expressed their disappointment and frustration after working for so long on a bipartisan and comprehensive piece of legislation and pinned the blame on halting the conferencing process on the House GOP. The reasoning behind the purposeful failing of the bill appeared to be House GOP banking on the fact that they could pass energy legislation in the new Trump administration that was more squarely in-line with their agenda than it was in the form of this Energy Bill; to include rolling back environmental regulations and some of President Obama’s steps to fight climate change.

The Sportsmen’s Act would have to wait another congressional session. In 2017, several new, discrete bills have already been introduced and have had hearings in Congress. ASA is working diligently to advance the provisions of legislation that are most important to our membership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the past three sessions of Congress, a package of bills known as the Sportsmen’s Act has been introduced. Though the exact collection of bills in the package has varied, the integrity of the Sportsmen’s Act has remained the same: to benefit our nation’s sportsmen and women by providing increased access to our public lands and waters, improving fish and wildlife management and protecting the use of traditional fishing tackle.

Even during politically divisive times, many members of both parties in the past and today have recognized the significance of the Sportsmen’s Act to every stretch of the U.S. Despite its history of support and merit, politics have stood in the way of legislation passing. ASA is working in lockstep with its fellow sportsmen and conservation organizations to ensure 2016 is the year that measures to promote and expand fishing and hunting opportunities successfully are signed into law.

The U.S. Senate passed several provisions found in the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 (S. 405). By a vote of 85-12, the Senate approved amendment #3234 as part of a comprehensive Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012), which authorizes the National Fish Habitat Partnership program and requires certain public lands to be open for recreational fishing and hunting unless specifically closed through an open and public process.

  1. 405 was originally sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). It had been split between two committees, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee.

On October 8, the House Natural Resources Committee passed companion Sportsmen’s Act legislation – H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act; and in February, it passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 242-161. Passage of H.R. 2406 represents another major milestone for the recreational fishing community.

Some important provisions to the sportfishing community were stripped from the Senate version, so ASA is working to retain them from the House’s version when a conference between chambers plays out at the end of 2016.

Our Position

ASA believes the Sportsmen’s Act, if passed, would be one of the most significant angler and hunter pieces of legislation in decades. We, therefore, remain resolute in ensuring it is signed into law. In doing so, we put priority on advancing the parts that would have the most positive impact on the sportfishing industry, which are protecting fishing tackle from unwarranted federal regulation; enhancing public access to public lands and waters; and codifying the National Fish Habitat Partnership.

Issue Background

During the 112th Congress in September of 2012, Sen. John Tester (D-MT) and 14 cosponsors introduced the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S. 3525), a package of 17 bills. The three most important to the recreational fishing community were an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NHFCA), and Making Public Lands Public (MLPL). The bill boasted the bipartisan support of 52 cosponsors, but hit a budget point of order in November of 2012. Prior to voting on the point of order, party politics consumed the allotted Congressional floor time for debate and ultimately sank the bill.

In the next session of Congress, on July 18, 2013, Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a Sportsmen’s Package (S. 1335) in the Senate. This package of 11 bills, including the Recreational Hunting and Fishing Heritage Opportunities Act (Heritage) as well as a modification to TSCA, which would block attempts to federally ban lead in recreational fishing tackle.

A few months later on November 6, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced the Sportsmen’s and Public Outdoor Recreation Traditions Act – the SPORT Act (S. 1660). As in the Murkowski bill, this package contained TSCA and Heritage provisions. The SPORT Act did include the MPLP provision and an exemption for the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund from future federal budget sequesters. Neither the Murkowski bill nor the Hagan bill received endorsement by the sportfishing, hunting or conservation communities because the bills were not bipartisan.

On February 5, 2014, the House of Representatives passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or the SHARE Act (H.R. 3590) sponsored by Representative Bob Latta (R-OH). This bill contained the same two important provisions to the sportfishing community as the Murkowski and Hagan bills.

On February 4, 2014, Senators Murkowski and Hagan introduced the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, S. 1996. This package consisted of 12 bills, had 10 additional cosponsors compared to the SPORT Act and SHARE Act, and contained the TSCA, Heritage, and MPLP provisions.

The U.S. Senate in July of 2014 failed to pass a vote that would have moved the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act forward. Eighty-one amendments were offered to the bill, many of which were not endorsed by the sporting community or germane to the original bill. The vote and subsequent failure had nothing to do with the merits of the bill and much to do with the upcoming mid-term elections and discord across party lines. Even so, the bipartisan vote in the House and bipartisan set of sponsors in the Senate highlight how conservation issues that impact sportsmen and women can cut through partisan politics.

These previous attempts at passage have laid the groundwork for early introduction of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 – S. 405. On February 5, 2015, Sens. Murkowski (R-AK) and Heinrich (D-NM) unveiled a reenergized Sportsmen’s package along with four other cosponsors. Collectively, the package contained 14 measures that would benefit our nation’s sportsmen and women by providing increased access to our public lands and waters, improving fish and wildlife management and protecting the use of traditional fishing tackle.

The Act, as it was before being modified by the two committees of jurisdiction, included several provisions benefiting the sportsmen community, some of which are:

  • Making Public Lands Public Act – Increases access for angling, hunting and recreational shooting on federal lands by directing 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to ensure access to fishing, hunting and other recreational activities.
  • The Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act – Recent, ongoing attempts to overregulate sportfishing equipment in a non-scientific fashion by anti-fishing interests represent one of the largest threats to the sport. This section will block attempts to federally ban lead in recreational fishing equipment and ammunition by clarifying the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • The Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act – Directs U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management managers to facilitate recreational fishing and hunting on public lands and waters and to evaluate how these traditional outdoor activities will be impacted by the implementation of new regulations, management plans or land use initiatives.

This bipartisan bill would provide increased access for recreational opportunities across the nation as well as the protection of our fishing and shooting heritage. However, it would benefit even more if NFHCA was added to the package. NFHCA is a national conservation investment strategy that will extend the impact of our nation’s conservation dollars. The Act’s goal is to foster and facilitate landscape-scale, regional fish habitat conservation projects that originate in local communities, with anglers and conservation groups working together with state and federal agencies.

On Feb. 26, 2016, the SHARE Act passed the House by a vote of 242-161. ASA was also pleased that an amendment was defeated that would have stripped language that prohibits the National Park Service from implementing unwarranted fishing closures without state approval, like what occurred at Biscayne National Park.

In the Senate, passage of the Sportsmen’s Act has been much more complicated. Both Energy and Natural Resources and Environment and Public Works subsets of the Sportsmen’s Act passed out of committee, but the EPW portion proved to be more contentious. Already containing provisions opposed by many Senate Democrats, a couple “poison pill” amendments were added in committee making it even more problematic for Democrats.

Due in large part to the contentiousness of the EPW portion of the bill, Senate leadership decided to attempt to advance only the ENR portion of the Sportsmen’s Act. That was successfully achieved as an amendment to the Energy Bill, which passed the Senate on April 20. While ASA hailed this as a victory, as several of our top priorities were included (e.g., better facilitating recreational access to certain federal lands, authorization of the National Fish Habitat Partnership Program), other priorities contained in the EPW portion were left behind, most notably an exemption from unwarranted EPA regulation for lead fishing tackle.

The Senate and House must now work to reconcile differences in the Energy Bills passed by each chamber. Sportsmen’s Act will be a part of those discussions. ASA will advocate for maintaining priority provisions included in the Senate-passed Sportsmen’s Act measure, as well as adding back in priority provisions that were not included.