MISSOULA, Mont.--The Boone and Crockett Club today recognized Montana Senator Jon Tester for his leadership in improving access for hunters nationwide.
Rarely in the Club's 123-year history has Boone and Crockett formally honored an individual outside the Club for efforts to improve America's hunting heritage or wildlife conservation. But Club officials say Tester stands out among his peers for his persistent and remarkable work on behalf of sportsmen and women.
In a ceremony held at the national headquarters of the conservation organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt, Boone and Crockett Club president emeritus Lowell E. Baier presented Tester with a plaque and words of gratitude specifically for the senator's leadership in the Making Public Lands Public Act (S. 901).
Tester's legislation would provide funding for improving public access to existing federal lands. The secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior would be required to utilize 1.5 percent, or a minimum of $10 million annually, of their Land and Water Conservation Fund budgets to acquire public access to existing federal lands through easements, rights-of-way, or fee title acquisitions from willing sellers. If passed, the bill has the potential to open hundreds of thousands of acres of federal public land to hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities each year.
Nearly half of all hunters use public lands. But a report to Congress shows more than 35 million acres of land administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have inadequate hunter access. Lack of access to hunting grounds is cited as the No. 1 reason why hunters drop out and cease contributing to conservation.
Baier said, "Roosevelt was adamant that Americans should have the opportunity to hunt, fish and enjoy the hardy life of the outdoors. Hunting is vital to conservation. Proper access is vital to hunting. Senator Tester understands this heritage and why it's even more important now than it was in Roosevelt’s time."
Tester said, "America's public lands are some of the best in the world, and they're where we pass on our outdoor traditions to our kids and grandkids. But we're seeing too much of this land blocked, surrounded by private land with closed gates."
Boone and Crockett Club is among many hunting, fishing and conservation organizations strongly supporting the Making Public Lands Public Act (S. 901).
Baier added, "Senator Tester is one of the real champions in Washington D.C. for hunting and conservation and our way of life. I know the Club speaks for the entire sporting community when we say thank you for being our voice in so many important issues, from managing wolves to conserving habitat to protecting traditional ammunition--as well as improving hunting access."