On Friday, Congressman Dan Benishek (M-01) introduced H.R. 2834, the “Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act,” a bill designed to “recognize the heritage of recreational fishing, hunting, and shooing on federal public lands and ensure continued opportunities for these activities.”
The bill would require federal land managers at various agencies, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to increase the public’s access to federal land via their “multi-use” mandates in their agencies respective land management plans.
“In Northern Michigan, hunting and fishing is more than a sport or hobby—it is a way of life. My hope is that Congress will act to ensure that hunting, fishing and shooting rights are protected on federal lands for years to come,” Benishek said in his press release.
According to Benishek, the bill hinges on the idea of public transparency and the notion that federal lands should have an “open until closed” policy for sportsmen, thus reversing the current policy which is seemingly the opposite – “closed until open.” In addition to improving access, the bill would make it more difficult for environmentalist groups to impede hunting, fishing and shooting on federal lands.
“It’s hard for me to think of something I enjoy more than heading out from my camp in the Ottawa National Forest during late September and doing some bird hunting. Our goal with this legislation is to make that possible for future generations of sportsmen,” Benishek added.
Rep. Dan Boren (OK-02) told reporters, “Nearly 50 million men, women, and youth hunt and fish. Almost half of all hunters use Federal lands, and in certain states the Federal government owns the only open land available. Millions more engage in target shooting at ranges and informal sites on our public lands. We must protect and enhance sportsmen’s access to Federal lands and opportunities to participate in these activities.”
This bill comes on the heels of another pro-hunting, fishing and shooting Act, Montana Senator Jon Tester’s “Making Public Lands Public Access Act” (S. 901), which seeks to amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 to ensure that amounts are made available for projects to provide recreational public access, and for other purposes.
Both bills are still in the early stages of the legislative process in that they have both been referred to committees for further study and investigation. While the odds are against any bill making it through this process and to Congress for an actual vote, one can hope that by increasing the number of bills that improve access to federal lands, sooner or later one will pass. In short, sportsmen and sportswomen can find solace in this strength in numbers approach.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on the status of these bills.