Policy Corner Brief: JANUARY 2022
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, a Top CSF Priority, Set to Receive Committee Vote in House
- On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee is set to hold a vote on the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 2773)
- H.R. 2773, led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Debbie Dingell (MI) and CSC Member Representative Jeff Fortenberry (NE), is the most significant wildlife conservation bill to be considered by Congress in decades and is a top priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).
- The committee vote on this legislation marks a critical step in the advancement of the bill.
Why it matters: The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act represents the single most significant fish and wildlife conservation to be considered by Congress in decades. For over 80 years, sportsmen and women have been the primary funders of conservation efforts, however, due to increasing challenges facing our fish and wildlife populations, there is simply not enough funding to proactively conserve all species. Fortunately, the Recovering Wildlife America’s Act provides a solution to this problem.
On Wednesday, January 19, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a legislative markup to vote on the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 2773), one of the top legislative priorities for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
Earlier today, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation sent an action alert to members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus on the Natural Resources Committee urging a “yes” vote on this important legislation. Furthermore, CSF and over 40 of the leading sporting-conservation organizations sent a letter to the Committee urging a favorable vote on the bill to address the 21st century conservation challenges facing our fish and wildlife managers.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide nearly $1.4 billion annually in perpetuity for proactive, state-based conservation projects in every state, territory, and on tribal lands and waters. Collectively, through their Congressionally-mandated State Wildlife Action Plans, state fish and wildlife agencies have identified nearly 12,000 species of fish, wildlife, and plants that are considered “species of greatest conservation need”. Specifically, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide $1.3 billion annually to states and territories to implement their State Wildlife Action Plans and would provide $97.5 million annually to conduct conservation efforts on tribal lands and waters.
In 2015, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation assisted in the development of the concept of providing a long-term, dedicated source of conservation funding to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies as a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. The Blue Ribbon Panel is now represented by the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife. Since 2015, CSF’s President and CEO, Jeff Crane, has served as the legislative co-chair of the Alliance.
In advance of the scheduled Committee vote on Wednesday, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will work to urge members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus on the Committee to vote favorably on the bill.
House Natural Resources Committee to Consider Great Lakes Conservation Bill and Anti-Trapping Bill
- The House Natural Resources Committee is set to hold a legislative hearing on Thursday, January 20 on a number of bills, including two of importance to sportsmen and women.
- Two of the bills being considered by the Committee include the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Reauthorization Act of 2021(H.R. 5973), a bill supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), and the Refuge From Cruel Trapping Act of 2021 (H.R. 4716), which is strongly opposed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
Why it matters: The legislative hearing scheduled for Thursday is a necessary step in the legislative process for both of these bills. The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Reauthorization has provided approximately $31 million in federal funding to conduct roughly 185 research, restoration, and regional conservation projects, making this program critical for fish and wildlife within the Great Lakes region. The Refuge From Cruel Trapping Act represents another short-sighted piece of legislation that conflicts with the reality of science based wildlife management.
On January 20, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a legislative hearing on the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Reauthorization Act of 2021, a CSF supported bill, and an emotionally driven piece of legislation known as the Refuge From Cruel Trapping Act of 2021, which CSF actively opposes.
The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration (GLFWRA) Reauthorization Act of 2021, led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Debbie Dingell (MI), seeks to reauthorize the GLFWRA program at $6 million annually through Fiscal Year 2027. The GLFWRA program provides federal funding to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collaboratively with states, tribes, and other federal agencies to conduct fish and wildlife restoration efforts. Specifically, GLFWRA authorizes funding for projects such as waterfowl monitoring, wetland restoration, culvert improvement, dam removal, and other important conservation efforts.
The Refuge From Cruel Trapping Act is a short-sighted piece of legislation that seeks to ban trapping within the National Wildlife Refuge System and is strongly opposed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. This bill runs counter to the support of trapping maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees and manages the Refuge System, who states “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) also views trapping as a legitimate recreational and economic activity when there are harvestable surpluses of fur-bearing mammals”.
Not only is trapping one of the most highly regulated wildlife dependent activities in the world, it is often the only tool available for our nation’s wildlife professionals to manage and conserve wildlife. While this bill allows for federal agencies and state fish and wildlife agencies in certain cases to conduct trapping efforts, the bill would effectively prohibit licensed public individuals rom trapping within the National Wildlife Refuge System, despite the support maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for wildlife trapping.
Leading up to the hearing, CSF will express our support for the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Reauthorization Act and make our opposition to the Refuge From Cruel Trapping Act known to the Committee.
Advocating for Sporting Dogs in the Granite State
Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States
- On January 14, the New Hampshire House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committeeconvened for a hearing on legislation, that if passed, would implement restrictions on the sporting dog community.
- Exactly one-month priorto this hearing, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter of opposition to the New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) Commission’s Legislator Committee and Strategic Planning Committee, calling for them to take positions against this bill.
- House Bill 1308(HB 1308) would prohibit individuals and sporting dog clubs from the live taking of snowshoe hares or rabbits from the wild for the purpose of using them for dog training, to stock a training site, or in field trials.
- CSF’s Assistant Manager for the Northeastern States, Joe Mullin, testified against this bill in-person, emphasizing that curbing the training of dogs by restricting the use of wild rabbits and hares is an affront on hunting and many other outdoor sporting traditions.
Why it Matters: Training one’s hunting dog prior to taking it afield is an absolute necessity – ask any sportsman or woman. In New Hampshire and across the nation, dogs are a regular part of the hunting culture and play a vital role in a number of a pursuits, including rabbit and snowshoe hare hunting. In preparation for these seasons, a dog is commonly trained over live, captured rabbits and/or hares under environments that simulate situations the dog will see in the field. The use of these rabbits and hares is also an important component to field trials, during which a dog’s ability to perform under hunting conditions is both tested and scored. Legislative efforts to prevent the use of captured rabbits or hares threatens to undermine a dog’s preparation, thus risking its overall safety and performance.
On January 14, the New Hampshire House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee met at the Capitol for a hearing on a handful of sportsmen’s policies. Among these policies was House Bill 1308 (HB 1308) – legislation that would prohibit the live taking of snowshoe hares or rabbits from the wild for dog training, to stock a training site, or in field trials. This hearing came one month after the New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) Commission’s Legislator Committee and Strategic Planning Committee met and voted 9-1 against this bill. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted written testimony in advance of the hearing to the NHFG Commission opposing HB 1308, but there was still much work to be done.
During the January 14 hearing, CSF testified against HB 1308 and submitted written opposition outlining the important role that sporting dogs play in New Hampshire and how the use of live rabbits and hares is often an essential component in training. As is the case with professional athletes, simulating live and realistic conditions results in peak performance in the field and works to stave off injuries. In the case of hunting and field trials, dogs rely on time spent over wild hares and rabbits in order to prepare and work optimally. By prohibiting the use of wild hares and rabbits for dog training, to stock a training site, or in field trials, HB 1308 will have two likely effects: it will send undertrained and underqualified dogs into the field in the pursuit of game, and it will drive a significant portion of New Hampshire’s dog training business into surrounding states.
CSF was joined by numerous in-state and national conservation partners, all of whom speaking out against HB 1308. While an executive session to vote on this bill has been set for January 25, the message from last Friday was clear – New Hampshire’s sporting dog owners will not stand for restrictive legislation such as this.
CSF thanks the many organizations and individuals who came out to voice their opposition to HB 1308. Additional updates on this issue will be provided as they are made available.
Effort Seeking to Increase Access to Public Lands for Veterans and Servicemembers Signed into Law as Part of National Defense Authorization Act
- On December 27, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 was signed into law, delivering a victory to our nation’s Veterans and servicemembers and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).
- Specifically, the National Defense Authorization Act included a CSF priority known as the Veterans in Parks Act, which reduces barriers to entry for our nation’s Veterans and servicemembers by providing free passes to access and recreate on our nation’s federal public lands.
Why it matters: The Veterans in Parks Act recognizes the commitments and selfless contributions made by our nation’s Veterans and servicemembers by establishing free lifetime and annual America the Beautiful passes to access our National Parks and federally managed public lands. In many cases, outdoor recreation, particularly hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting, plays a critically important role in the lives of our nation’s Veterans and military families.
On December 27, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, which included a provision to support America’s Veterans and service men and women in their outdoor pursuits, was signed into law. Specifically, the National Defense Authorization Act included a provision known as the Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act to reduce barriers to entry for Veterans and servicemembers by providing free lifetime and annual passes to access our federal public lands.
The VIP Act is a bipartisan, common-sense provision that seeks to improve access for our nation’s Veterans and servicemembers. By establishing free annual and lifetime America the Beautiful Passes to our nation’s current service members, the VIP Act recognizes the value that America’s public lands play in the lives of Veterans and servicemembers. Federal public lands provide ample opportunities for Veterans, servicemembers, and their families to participate in countless forms of outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds the inclusion of the VIP Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. This provision will enhance outdoor recreation for men and women who have put their country first by serving in our nation’s armed forces.
Missouri: Could Archery Become the Official State Sport?
Contact: Kent Keene, Senior Coordinator, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
- House Bill 1672, introduced by Missouri Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Tim Taylor, seeks to name archery as the official state sport in Missouri.
- The bill recognizes Holless Wilber Allen, the Missourian who invented the compound bow in the 1960’s.
- Through programs like the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program, Missourians of all ages, sizes, and physical ability have the opportunity to participate and succeed in the sport.
Why it matters: Opportunities to celebrate activities related to our outdoor heritage are critical as we continue our work to protect and advance the rights of sportsmen and women to participate in hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping. Archery, among the most time-honored activities associated with our hunting heritage, is a great way to introduce new sportsmen and women, regardless of age, size, or physical ability, to these traditions.
On January 5, Missouri Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Tim Taylor introduced House Bill 1672 (HB 1672) which seeks to name archery as the official state sport in Missouri. This relatively short bill carries a tremendous impact as it recognizes archery as a part of Missouri’s heritage. This includes recognition of Missourian Holless Wilber Allen who invented and patented the compound bow in 1966.
For many sportsmen and women, participation in archery served an initial gateway to our time-honored our traditions. With hunting seasons that typically last much longer than firearm hunting seasons for many big game species, archers enjoy increased opportunities to spend time afield. Likewise, many archers enjoy the challenges associated with hunting with a stick and string due to the limited effective range of archery technology compared to many modern firearms, crediting this for feelings of increase intimacy with the outdoors.
Recently, interest in archery has continued to increase thanks, at least in part, to portrayals of archery in film and television. This increased presence in popular culture, combined with the availability of programs like the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) to both hunting and non-hunting audiences. Likewise, this attention could help breathe a sense of optimism as state wildlife management agencies and members of the sporting-conservation community continue to explore opportunities to recruit, retain, and reactivate (efforts known collectively as R3) sportsmen and women.
Again, opportunities to promote our outdoor traditions are paramount to our ability to protect and advance our outdoor heritage. Unique avenues to promote this heritage, such as the efforts associated with Missouri HB 1672, are great ways to draw attention to our time-honored outdoor activities while recruiting the next generation of sportsmen and women.
Lifetime Licenses in the Hoosier State
Contact: Nick Buggia, Manager, Upper Midwestern States
- House Bill 1099 would require the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to offer a lifetime hunting, trapping, and fishing license.
- While many states offer lifetime licenses for sportsmen and women, it is important to understand the fiscal impact that a lifetime license may have on state fish and wildlife agencies through the American System of Conservation Funding.
- State Fish and Wildlife Agencies should have the power to not only set license fees but determine what license to offer. As the professionals charged with managing our nation’s public trust fish and wildlife resources, they are uniquely qualified to make those determinations.
Why it matters: America, thanks to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF) through which it is funded, benefits from the most successful conservation systems in the world. Together, efforts supported through this system have resulted in conservation success stories seen nowhere else in the world by allowing sportsmen and women to enjoy opportunities to utilize our cherished natural resources while the general public benefiting from that use. Due to the reliance on the contributions of sportsmen and women through the ASCF, it is important that make every dollar count towards conservation of our natural resources and the sustainability of our outdoor pursuits.
On January 4, House Bill 1099 (HB 1099) was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee where it awaits a hearing. This bill would require, rather than allow the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to sell lifetime hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses.
On the surface, lifetime licenses appear to offer great options and are currently offered in several states. In fact, some argue that it could serve as a tool to help state agencies as they seek to recruit, retain, and reactivate (efforts known collectively as R3) sportsmen and women. However, we have a responsibility to make sure the agency that serves our outdoor pursuits is well funded in order for us to be able to enjoy these pursuits in the future. To accomplish this, the decision to offer a lifetime license should be left to those best qualified to make such decisions, the state fish and wildlife management agency.
Through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses help generate funding for the agencies to sustainably manage wildlife populations. CSF recently testified in front of the Natural Resource Commission in favor of a license fee package granting the DNR the flexibility to raise fees on both public and commercial licenses. This flexibility will ensure that the DNR is on solid financial footing and has the resources necessary to meet federal match requirements needed to receive various federal grants. These monies provide a tremendous amount of conservation funding, resulting in numerous benefits for the people of Indiana.
Staffed with professional fish and wildlife managers, the DNR is best suited to make decisions that will impact their ability to manage the state’s fish and wildlife resources. Maintaining the DNR’s license authority, rather than placing it in statute, provides the DNR with the flexibility needed to best serve Indiana’s hunters, trappers, and anglers. A lifetime license may be a good thing for Indiana, but we, as sportsmen and women, need to make sure we are not causing the DNR to lose money. It is our responsibility as conservationists to make sure the DNR has the resources necessary to continue to manage our fish and wildlife populations sustainably and in perpetuity.
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