Conservation groups are gathering behind a Boone and Crockett Club-initiated push to resolve decades of controversy over legal challenges against the US Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal conservation agencies.
A joint letter from many of the nation's top wildlife, sporting and conservation organizations is circulating this week to lawmakers in Washington D.C. The letter urges support and co-sponsorship for the bipartisan bill H.R. 2919--The Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act.
The bill was introduced jointly by four members of Congress--two Republican and two Democratic. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) have worked together on the bill for more than a year. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) have joined as members of the House Judiciary Committee.
"The Boone and Crockett Club has supported the negotiations behind this bill and is rallying behind it because it is about where conservation began and where it is going," said Bill Demmer, president of the Boone and Crockett Club. "Our founders were the pioneers of conservation and it is our mission today to advance that legacy for coming generations."
"Organized conservation began with the professional, technical agencies set up to conserve land, water, and wildlife," said Bob Model, past-president and co-chair of the Conservation Policy Committee of the Club.
"In recent years, lawsuits against those agencies have become a routine step in their decisions and actions. If there is something that badly wrong with how agencies do their jobs, we must fix it. If instead the lawsuits are the problem, we must fix that. To find out, we need the basic data provided by H.R. 2919 on why lawsuits are lost and how much they cost," said Model.
H.R. 2919 amends the Equal Access to Justice Act by requiring an annual report and public on-line database of the cases lost by the agencies. The database will provide a description of the claims in each case, the litigants that received reimbursement of legal fees and the amounts, and the basis for the ruling against the federal agency.
Lowell Baier, president emeritus of the Club leads the effort. He said, "H.R. 2919 is the latest version of recent bills on the policy of reimbursing the legal fees and costs for those who sue the government. We have urged changes to each bill to focus specifically on what we need to know in the interest of conservation and to also support the interest of others who rely on the Equal Access to Justice Act, such as seniors, veterans, and small business."
The Boone and Crockett Club, now in its 125th year, founded by Theodore Roosevelt, is the pioneer of professional wildlife conservation and hunting ethics. The Club today was instrumental in organizing a common agenda among national hunting-conservation organizations, entitled "Wildlife for the 21st Century." It keeps the longest-running standardized record of natural history measurements in the "Records of North American Big Game," and maintains a network of graduate research fellowships across five universities.