The Latest News in Conservation

Senate Amendment would Help Hunters Access Public Lands

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today offered a package of sportsmen’s bills in an amendment to the Farm Bill legislation. One piece of the amendment guarantees funding for improving hunter access to existing public lands. This bipartisan amendment is supported by the Boone and Crockett Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and other hunting organizations.

The amendment directs the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to acquire rights of way and other land interests from willing-seller landowners to open access to existing public lands where public access for hunting and fishing is closed. The amendment also protects ammunition from lawsuits designed to force the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead in ammunition and fishing tackle. Also benefitting hunters, the amendment provides funds for states to create public shooting ranges. For duck hunters, the amendment reauthorizes the Duck Stamp Act and the Wetlands Conservation Act—both instrumental in preserving waterfowl habitat.

“History shows conservation happens when and where hunting and fishing are allowed—this amendment, if enacted, will provide better access to our national forests and BLM lands for hunting and fishing, and will protect many critical elements of the hunting experience. It is a homerun for hunters and we will work to get it enacted into law,” said Ben Wallace, president of Boone and Crockett Club.

For the 32 million American hunters, anglers and recreational shooters, federal public lands are increasingly vital to their participation in outdoor sports. Nearly half of all hunters, for example, conduct a portion of their hunting activity on public lands. Reduced access is cited as a primary reason that hunters, anglers and target shooters stop participating in these traditional sports. A 2004 report to the U.S. House Committee On Appropriations concluded that more than 35 million acres of Forest Service and BLM lands have inadequate access. Specifically, nearly 2 million acres (10 percent) of Forest Service lands in Montana and 8.4 million acres (29 percent) of BLM lands in the Montana/Dakotas region were identified as having inadequate access.

Sportsmen and women make important contributions to both wildlife conservation and the nation’s economy. The hunting and shooting sports industries create over 160,000 full-time jobs nationwide, generating an economic benefit of over $20 billion annually.