Supplemental Draft Backcountry Access Plan Released for Big Cypress National Preserve: Concerns Surrounding Sportsmen and Women Access
Posted on Monday, August 15, 2022
Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
- The National Park Service (NPS) released the Supplemental Draft Backcountry Access Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Supplemental Draft Plan) for the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.
- The Supplemental Draft Plan was prepared after public comments were received on the Draft Backcountry Access Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Plan), which was released to the public in the fall of 2020.
- On December 15, 2020, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter supporting Alternative 5 in the Draft Plan which would have reopened 66 miles of primary off highway vehicle (OHV) trails and 154 miles of secondary ORV trails across the 729,000-acre Big Cypress National Preserve.
- In the Supplemental Draft Plan, there are three Alternatives that are under consideration by the NPS, with Alternative 3 being the NPS’s preferred Alternative.
Why It Matters: An increase in access would not only benefit Florida’s sportsmen and women, but it would also assist in the management of natural resources located within the Big Cypress National Preserve. Off highway vehicles can be an important tool for accessing backcountry destinations, managing wildlife habitat, and giving youth, elderly, and those with mobility limitations the opportunity to participate in outdoor recreation.
The former Alternative 3, as well as Alternatives 4 and 5 from the 2020 Draft Plan, were dismissed from further consideration by the NPS. Each Alternative in the current Supplemental Draft Plan evaluates a different approach:
- Alternative 1 (No Action): The current system of primary OHV trails (a total of 278 miles) would remain unchanged and no secondary OHV trails would be opened. The current annual 60-day ORV closure would remain in place.
- Alternative 2: The primary OHV trail system would remain unchanged, and 15 miles of secondary ORV trails would be opened. The current annual 60-day OHV closure would remain in place.
- Alternative 3 (NPS’s Preferred Alternative): Reopen 54 additional miles of primary OHV trails and 52 miles of secondary OHV trails as well as lift the current annual 60-day OHV closure.
The NPS will be hosting three virtual meetings on August 29 from 2:00-4:00 p.m., August 30 from 7:00-9:00 p.m., and August 31 12:00-2:00 p.m. to present the Plan and receive feedback from the public.
The public comment period on the proposed Supplemental Draft Plan opened on August 12 and will close September 26. The comment portal and more information on the Supplemental Draft Plan can be found here. CSF will review the Supplemental Plan and work with the Florida outdoor sporting community to advocate for increased access for sportsmen and women.
Annual August Recess Clays Competition Enjoys Another Successful Year
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2022
Spirits were high last Friday, August 5th as over 200 individuals (including 50 beginners), gathered just a few miles away from the nation’s capital to participate in the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) August Recess Clays Competition. Representing congressional offices, advocacy groups, and industry partners, participants joined CSF for a day of outdoor education and camaraderie that included sporting clays, trap shooting, and a cookout. 30 teams completed the Prince George’s County course, a premier clay target shooting facility that has served as the home to numerous CSF events for over two decades.
Starting mid-morning, participants arrived in Glenn Dale and they each received new CSF branded I Fish. I Hunt. I Vote t-shirts, protective equipment, and shooting vests. Shortly thereafter, CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane welcomed the crowd and introduced shooting range staff who gave a detailed safety briefing. Teams then dispersed throughout the course, and over the span of the next few hours, each participant had the opportunity to break 75 clays at a variety of stations on the sporting clays course and the trap field.
A large element of the event was the opportunity for first time shooters to receive instruction from experienced marksmen and gain exposure to multiple disciplines of target shooting. With a quarter of the field identifying as beginners, the August Recess Clays Competition was a great first step to introducing participants to the outdoor sporting traditions that CSF works so vigorously to promote and protect.
By early afternoon, the smell of burgers and hotdogs was in the air and teams started to trickle back into the pavilion. Following lunch, participants were treated to ice cream, raffle winners were announced, and Jeff Crane once again took the stage, this time to present the competition’s winners:
- Top Gun: Carlton Hether, FN America
- Top Gun Female: Catherine Haggett, Koch PS
- Top Gun Republican: Sam Cloud, Office of Rep. Richard Hudson
- Top Gun Democrat: Huston Wallace, Office of Rep. Deborah Ross
- Top Trap : Jack Victory, Capitol Hill Consulting Group
- Top Sporting Clays: Knox Williams, American Suppressor Association
- Top Beginner: Elizabeth Teed, Office of Bruce Westerman
- Top Beginner: Jack Stelzner, Office of Rep. Mike Thompson
- Top Beginner: Alex Fink, Office of Rep. Bruce Westerman
CSF would like to extend our sincere appreciation to our partners and sponsors whose support made this event possible, including:
Title Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, The National Shooting Sports Foundation, Richard Childress Racing, and Vista Outdoor.
Host Sponsors: Ecentria, Hornady Manufacturing Company, The International Order of T. Roosevelt, Natural Resource Results, Nuclear Energy Institute, Safari Club International, Shimano North American Fishing, Inc., Taft Advisors, LLC, and Winchester Ammunition.
Co-Host Sponsors: Airline Pilots Association, Benelli USA, Consumer Brands Association, CropLife America, Federal Forest Resource Coalition, National Rifle Association, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Pet Food Institute, and Washington Metro SCI.
CSF Leads Community Effort to Support Use of Traditional Ammo and Tackle within National Wildlife Refuge System
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2022
- In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced the proposal of the 2022 – 2023 Hunt Fish Rule, which seeks to increase acreage for hunting and fishing opportunities, but also seeks to limit the use of traditional ammo and tackle within certain National Wildlife Refuge System units.
- In response to the proposed Hunt Fish Rule, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation led a comment letter to the Service that was signed by 30 of the nation’s leading sporting-conservation organizations to support for the expanded hunting and fishing opportunities. The letter also expressed concern with the lack of a science-based process to justify the limitations placed on traditional ammunition and tackle in the proposed rule.
Why It Matters: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the premier federal agency dedicated to conserving and managing our nation’s fish and wildlife. As such, it is critical for the Service to follow substantiated science when making fish and wildlife management decisions, including examining methods of take such as lead ammo and tackle. Generally, efforts to ban and place restrictions on lead ammunition and fishing tackle are based on concerns regarding mortality of animals due to incidental ingestion. However, the proposed Hunt Fish Rule does not clearly provide any justification to limit traditional ammunition and tackle within certain refuge units.
On August 7, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a comment letter, signed by 30 of the top sporting-conservation organizations, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in support of efforts to expand hunting and fishing opportunities, but also to express our concerns with the effort to phase out the use of traditional ammunition and tackle.
Earlier this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the 2022 – 2023 proposed Hunt Fish Rule. The proposed rule seeks to increase access for sportsmen and women across 54,000 acres within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). Unfortunately, the Hunt Fish Rule proposes to phase out the use of lead ammunition and tackle for expanded opportunities within nine NWRS units, effective in 2026.
In response to the proposed Hunt Fish Rule, CSF led a comment letter to express the support of the sporting-conservation community to strengthen access for hunters and anglers, but also to express the strong concerns from the community regarding seemingly arbitrary efforts to limit traditional lead and ammunition. In the letter, CSF and partners stated:
“Science-based fish and wildlife conservation is the cornerstone of our organizations and is a fundamental component to how federal and state fish and wildlife agencies manage our natural resources. Importantly, with rare exceptions, terrestrial and aquatic animals are managed to objectives for the population, not each animal. Blanket regulations on lead products commonly used for decades or longer by sportsmen and women based on unsubstantiated assumptions threatens to undermine how we have successfully managed fish and wildlife for the last century.”
CSF applauds the Service for supporting sportsmen and women by seeking to enhance hunting and fishing access opportunities within the NWRS. However, CSF is concerned to see the Service proposing to restrict the use of lead ammo and tackle for certain expanded sporting opportunities without clear, definitive science that shows it is necessary to limit this important method of take. While this proposal only phases out lead ammo and tackle for the hunting and fishing opportunities expanded as part of this rule within nine identified refuges, CSF is concerned about the potential precedent this may set for future refuge management decisions.
CSF will continue to work with the Service and other federal agencies to enhance access for sportsmen and women while simultaneously opposing efforts that seek to limit access and traditional methods of take, such as the use of lead ammo and tackle.
House Passes Bill to Ban Certain Semi-Automatic Rifles and Hunting Shotguns, CSF Strongly Opposes
Posted on Monday, August 01, 2022
- On Friday, July 30, the House of Representatives voted on a near party line vote to pass H.R. 1808, a bill known as the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022.
- H.R. 1808 would not only ban a number of modern sporting rifles and other semi-automatic rifles, but the legislation would also ban many semi-automatic shotguns commonly used in hunting and recreational shooting.
- In advance of the floor vote, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation helped lead a letter that was signed by the nation’s leading sporting-conservation organizations in strong opposition to H.R. 1808.
Why it matters: H.R. 1808 seeks to ban many semi-automatic rifles and shotguns commonly used by America’s sportsmen and women in hunting and recreational shooting. Modern sporting rifles and semi-automatic shotguns not only important to our hunting heritage but are highly popular in the recreational shooting community. This legislation would severely undermine our hunting heritage, firearm rights, and America’s most successful wildlife conservation program – the Pittman-Robertson Act.
On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1808, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022, a misleading bill that is strongly opposed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). H.R. 1808 would ban many commonly used modern sporting rifles and other semi-automatic rifles, highly popular semi-automatic shotguns, and institute other restrictive laws that would have a minimal impact on crime. Specifically, the legislation would ban commonly used shotguns by hunters and recreational shooters such as the Benelli Super Black Eagle III, Browning A5, Beretta A300 Ultima, Franchi Affinity 3, and the Mossberg 940. H.R. 1808 seeks to ban these firearms based largely on aesthetics and certain cosmetic accessories that do little to nothing to change the core function of the firearm.
Furthermore, manufacturer level excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment are critically important to our nation’s conservation efforts through the Pittman-Robertson Act, a pillar of the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). Specifically, the Pittman-Robertson Act directs an 10-11% percent manufacturer level excise tax to be used exclusively for state-based wildlife conservation funding. Since 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act has generated over $15 billion in “user pays – public benefits” funding to promote wildlife conservation, recruit hunters and recreational shooters, and to increase opportunities for hunting and recreational shooting. Just this year alone, through the excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment, the firearm and archery industry contributed approximately $1.1 billion in funding to state fish and wildlife agencies. Roughly 80% of this funding is directly attributed to recreational target shooters who are often using the very same tools that H.R. 1808 seeks to ban.
In years past, CSF has encouraged and worked with Congress to pass legislation that would strengthen our nation’s firearm heritage rather than placing an arbitrary ban on certain firearms and accessories. For example, in 2018, CSF applauded the Congressional passage of the FIX NICS Act, a bill that sought to improve our national background check system. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to oppose H.R. 1808 and other short-sighted efforts that seek to severely limit and restrict our hunting heritage and firearms rights.
CSF Leads Effort to Support Nation’s Wildlife Managers by Opposing Undermining Legislation Under Consideration in House Committee
Posted on Monday, July 25, 2022
- Last week, the House Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee held a hearing on H.R 4951, a bill opposed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF)
- This legislation would undermine our nation’s wildlife managers by banning the use of M-44 devices on federal public lands.
- In advance of the hearing, CSF sent a statement to the Subcommittee to support our professional wildlife managers, which was submitted for the Congressional record by the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Rep. Cliff Bentz (OR).
Why It Matters: Our nation’s professional wildlife managers are often tasked with addressing human-wildlife conflicts over large, often rural, or remote areas, on limited budgets and staff capacity. M-44s not only serve as an important tool for these professionals given their limited resources, but they are also highly effective in managing the targeted wildlife. Unfortunately, H.R. 4951 does not take into the account the highly restrictive management practices that are required to utilize M-44s and the effectiveness of these devices.
On July 21, the House Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee held a hearing on H.R. 4951, a piece of legislation that would hinder the ability of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS) Wildlife Services, and other wildlife professionals to manage problem wildlife. This legislation seeks to ban the use of M-44 devices on federal public lands.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation strongly supports our wildlife professionals and their efforts to address human-wildlife conflicts with the tools they deem necessary and appropriate. That is why CSF actively opposed H.R. 4951 in advance of the legislative hearing last Thursday. CSF’s statement in opposition spoke to the value of M-44s and the need to provide deference to our wildlife managers in determining the tools needed to successfully manage the nation’s wildlife.
The M-44 is an ejector device that is spring-activated and delivers a dose of cyanide powder to targeted problem wildlife. Importantly, the M-44 device can only be used by professional wildlife managers, such as Wildlife Services, not the lay-sportsman or woman. Currently, only 14 states authorize the use of M-44s by Wildlife Services. Of those 14, there are only 5 states that have registrations for non-Wildlife Services applicators to use M-44s, however, these applicators are still trained and certified wildlife professionals. Furthermore, there are 26 use restrictions that serve as guidelines for Wildlife Services and other professionals utilizing M-44s to ensure the safety of the user, the public, and non-target species.
In 2019, USDA stated, “USDA recognizes the importance of the M-44 Sodium Cyanide Capsule in managing predation caused by wildlife. The M-44 is one of the safest, most selective, and efficient tools available to producers in situations where predators are causing excessive damage to agriculture, livestock, or impacting threatened and endangered species”. Opponents of M-44s device will argue these devices are indiscriminate. However, a Montana case study that looked at M-44 use by non-USDA-Wildlife Services applicators between 2006-2019 showed that non-target species only accounted for 6.7% of non-Wildlife Service applicators take. During that same time period, non-target take by Wildlife Services with M-44s only accounted for 0.23%, demonstrating the effectiveness of M-44s in taking targeted wildlife.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to oppose H.R. 4951 and other legislative efforts that seek to undermine our wildlife professionals.
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