CSF SUPPORTED FOREST DATA MODERNIZATION ACT INTRODUCED
ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ
Why It Matters: Sportsmen and women depend on healthy forests to provide quality wildlife habitat, and forest owners and land managers need accurate and accessible information to effectively manage forests. The Forest Data Modernization Act would update the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program to better inform forest management decision-making to improve forest health and wildlife habitat to support the outdoor sporting traditions of millions of Americans.
- Modernizing the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program is a priority for the forestry community to ensure forest managers have quality, standardized, and readily accessible data to inform forest management decisions.
- The Forest Data Modernization Act would remedy these data needs by improving accessibility to forest data, improving the usability of the data, and improving data collection methods in addition to increasing FIA program transparency.
On June 9, Representatives Barry Moore and Kim Schrier introduced the Forest Data Modernization Act which would improve forest data collection methods and the type of forest data collected by the U.S. Forest Service’s FIA program. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supports the legislation and joined conservation partners to endorse the bill. Last month, Senator Jon Ossoff and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Senator Bill Cassidy introduced the Forest Data Modernization Act of 2023.
Since 1930, the FIA program has collected data on private and public forests across the country to inventory tree volume and biomass, analyze wood production and utilization rates, and assess trends in forest land use and ownership. Forest managers need accurate, accessible information, and the Forest Data Modernization Act would standardize forest measurements, including carbon, and improve how forest data is collected with new technologies while also improving accessibility to forest data and bringing more transparency to the FIA program.
Specifically, the legislation would improve:
- Data accessibility by requiring the publication of summary statistics every two years and the creation of a fee-for-service program to handle complex data requests.
- Data usability by directing the FIA to measure forest carbon and requiring that clear definitions are provided with FIA data to ensure better interpretability of datasets which would allow the forestry sector to leverage collected data consistently.
- Data collection by recommending consideration of advanced technologies for data collection, such as satellite sensors and computer models that could improve data accuracy and reduce costs as well as codifying existing surveys on wood use and forest landownership to ensure continued availability of datasets on which forestry stakeholders rely.
- FIA program transparency by requiring the existing FIA strategic plan to be updated, that future updates be made every five years, and that FIA costs and priorities be published annually.
CSF appreciates the leadership of Representatives Moore and Schrier and Senators Ossoff and Cassidy on this important issue for forest managers and the sportsmen’s community. The improved forest data acquired through the Forest Data Modernization Act would support the science-based sustainable forest management practices that are critical for managing forest habitat for wildlife, and CSF is excited to continue working to support the inclusion of this bill language in the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization.
KEY PRIORITIES STALL IN MISSISSIPPI BUT FOUNDATION LAID FOR 2024 PUSH
ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE
Why It Matters: There was no shortage of legislation impacting hunters and anglers in the Magnolia State during the 2023 legislative session. Everything from establishing a dedicated source of funding for the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, to codifying key tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, safeguarding Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (MDWFP) funding, and more were on the docket. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), along with our numerous in-state and national partners, worked diligently to advocate on behalf of sportsmen and women as well as science-based wildlife management.
- HB 998 introduced by Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Representative Bill Kinkade, would have codified that the state’s wildlife belongs to the citizens of the state and that the state is tasked with utilizing the best available science to manage its wildlife.
- HB 999 introduced by Representative Kinkade, would have deposited a portion of pre-existing sales tax revenue on certain outdoor sporting goods into the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.
- HB 1012 introduced by Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Representative Scott Bounds, would have required that the MDWFP be reimbursed by the State General Fund for any lost revenue that resulted from discounted or free hunting and fishing licenses.
- HB 1026 introduced by Representative Kinkade, would have prohibited the sale of game birds, game animals, and fish.
HB 998 and HB 1026 would have codified three key tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which is known as the most successful wildlife management model in the world. Ensuring that wildlife continue to be held in the public trust, that best available science is always used in management decisions, and prohibiting the sale and commercial hunting of wild game animals are paramount to the success of managing wildlife populations across the state. CSF submitted letters in support of both pieces of legislation.
After the creation of the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the subsequent $10 million appropriation from the State General Fund, Mississippi received a boost in additional funding to qualify for federal conservation programs. While the one-time $10 million appropriation is good seed money for the program, having a source of dedicated funding would provide added security for funding critical conservation projects through 2025. CSF submitted a letter in support of HB 999 prior to the bill’s passing the House of Representatives by a strong bipartisan vote of 106-7.
In another attempt to benefit conservation funding efforts, CSF worked alongside the Caucus to introduce HB 1012. The primary focus of this legislation was to protect MDWFP’s revenue from bills that provide free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses to certain segments of the population. While these bills are oftentimes well-intended, they can cause significant funding issues for state fish and wildlife agencies and thus negatively impact the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding. In 2021 alone, sportsmen and women contributed over $32 million through this system, which includes the purchasing of hunting and fishing licenses. The passage of this bill would have put Mississippi in line with several other states, such as Tennessee, where the State General Fund must reimburse the agency for revenue lost due to the passage of free and discounted licenses.
While none of these bills were voted down, CSF was disappointed to see them stall during the legislative process. However, we strongly believe that positive discussions were had on actionable items in advance of the 2024 legislative session, and we look forward to building on the progress made this year and working alongside the Caucus and our partners to protect and advance Mississippi’s cherished sporting traditions into the future.
HOUSE COMMITTEE ADVANCES TOP CSF ACCESS PRIORITIES IMPACTING MILLIONS OF SPORTSMEN AND WOMEN
June 21, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Earlier today, the House Natural Resources Committee passed two significant pieces of legislation for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act (H.R. 615) and the Duck Stamp Modernization Act (H.R. 2872).
These pieces of legislation were developed with input from CSF and are spearheaded by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Rep. Rob Wittman and CSC Co-Chair Rep. Garret Graves. Prior to the Committee vote, CSF sent an alert to the Committee urging CSC Members to vote yes on both pieces of legislation. CSF also sent a letter to the Committee in May in strong support of these bills.
“These bills are common-sense, community priorities impacting millions of sportsmen and women across the nation and we thank the House Natural Resources Committee for prioritizing sportsmen and women by voting these two important CSF priorities out of Committee,” said Jeff Crane, CSF President and CEO. “The passing of priorities such as these are a testament to the continued leadership and dedication of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to our nation’s sporting community.”
The Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act would prohibit the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior from banning the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on select federal lands and waters unless certain science-based and state agency triggers are met. Specifically, the federal lands of focus include lands and waters managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service.
H.R. 615 would ensure that restrictions concerning lead ammunition or fishing tackle are supported by sampling data that demonstrates a negative fish and wildlife population impact for a specific unit of land or water. Secondly, any restrictions on the use of lead ammo and tackle must be consistent with the regulations of the impacted state fish and wildlife agency. Lastly, any restriction on the use of lead ammunition and tackle within the federal lands of focus must have the support of the respective state fish and wildlife agency.
The Duck Stamp Modernization Act is a bipartisan bill that will modernize the federal duck stamp process by allowing hunters to have an electronic Federal Duck Stamp on their smart phone for the entirety of the hunting season. Under current law, when a hunter purchases an electronic federal duck stamp (e-stamp), the e-stamp is only valid for a period of 45 days to allow for the actual stamp to be mailed. Once the actual stamp is received by the e-stamp purchaser, the actual stamp must be signed across the face of the stamp by the respective hunter and be in the hunter’s possession while afield. To ensure the continuance and integrity of the Federal Duck Stamp art contest, a longstanding tradition for waterfowlers and non-consumptive bird enthusiasts alike, H.R. 2872 will ensure that purchasers of e-stamps still receive the actual stamp in the mail. Specifically, the legislation will provide that actual stamps will be mailed to purchasers from March 10 to June 30.
Signed into law in 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp has generated over $1.1 billion for wetlands conservation and helped conserve over 6 million acres of wetlands within the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 1934, there were roughly 635,000 stamps sold. Today, that number has grown to over 1.5 million stamp purchases, which generates more than $37.5 million annually for wetlands conservation.
Both the Protecting Access for Hunters & Anglers Act and the Duck Stamp Modernization Act await to be scheduled on the House floor for a final vote before heading to the Senate.
FWS ANNOUNCES ’23 – ’24 HUNT FISH RULE: EXPANDED ACCESS, BUT RESTRICTIONS ON TRADITIONAL AMMO AND TACKLE
ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ
Why it matters: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is the top federal agency dedicated to conserving our nation’s fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats. FWS supports more than 2.4 million hunting related visits and 7.3 million fishing visits annually, making the agency one of the most important federal land management agencies for sportsmen and women. As such, it is critical for FWS to follow substantiated science when making fish and wildlife management decisions, including decisions surrounding method of take. The proposal to phase out the use of traditional ammo and tackle as contained in the 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule does not appear to follow science-based decision making that is the foundation of the agency.
- On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the proposed 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule, an annual effort that is intended to increase access opportunities for sportsmen and women within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).
- While the proposed rule does expand hunting and fishing opportunities within three NWRS units, the proposal sets in motion the intent of FWS to phase out the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle within eight units.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) strongly opposes arbitrary, baseless efforts to restrict the use of traditional ammunition and tackle without clear, validated science justifying such restrictions as those contained in the Hunt Fish Rule.
Last Thursday, June 22, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposed 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule, which expands access across 3 National Wildlife Refuge System units but seeks to prohibit the use of lead ammo and tackle within eight units to be effective in 2026.
CSF is thankful for efforts by FWS to increase access for hunters and anglers through 48 new hunting opportunities that cover 3,000 acres of land and water within three NWRS units. Lack of access is often cited as the number one reason why sportsmen and women no longer participate in our time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing, and CSF fully supports any effort to expand access for sportsmen women.
CSF is disappointed to see the Hunt Fish Rule proposes to prohibit the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle, a highly popular and accessible method of take for sportsmen and women. Restrictions concerning lead ammunition and fishing tackle need to be supported by science-based data that demonstrates a negative fish and wildlife population impact within a specific unit of land or water. To date, CSF and partners have not received clear, definitive science that warrants restrictions within the eight identified refuges. If substantiated scientific data determines a causational relationship between the use of traditional ammunition or fishing tackle and local fish and wildlife population health, states already have the inherent ability and resources necessary to quickly implement regulations on methods of take.
CSF thanks FWS for expanding access across three units that will result in 3,000 acres being opened to 48 distinct hunting opportunities, but we are disappointed to see the intention to phase out traditional ammo and tackle on eight refuges. CSF will continue to work to maintain the use of this highly popular method of take to support sportsmen and women across the country.
NEW SPORTSMEN’S CAUCUS LEADERSHIP NAMED IN OHIO
ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS
Why It Matters: As an avid sportsman, Senator Shane Wilkin is dedicated to protecting and advancing Ohio’s outdoor sporting traditions. Senator Wilkin is a member of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and it is critical to have pro-sportsmen representation on this key committee for issues impacting hunters, anglers, trappers, and recreational shooters.
- Earlier this month, Senator Wilkin was selected as the new Co-Chair of the Ohio Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus).
- Senator Wilkin succeeds Senator Michael Rulli who served as Caucus Co-Chair since 2019.
- Senator Wilkin will lead the bipartisan, bicameral Caucus alongside Representative Mike Loychik.
Senator Wilkin joins a robust network of pro-sportsmen policymakers from Ohio, including Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Mike DeWine and numerous members of the Ohio Congressional delegation that are members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) extends our gratitude to Senator Rulli for his leadership over the years, including hosting successful policy meetings and a well-attended legislative reception at the Ohio Statehouse that brought together the Ohio sportsmen’s community for an evening of camaraderie to celebrate the important contributions that hunters and anglers provide to conservation funding and the economy.
CSF looks forward to continuing to work with Senator Wilkin and the Caucus on key issues such as creating a nonresident college student license during this legislative session that will have a significant impact on Ohio’s 1.56 million sportsmen and women who contribute more than $4.3 billion to the state’s economy. In 2021 alone, Ohio’s sportsmen and women also generated more than $53.7 million for state-based conservation through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. By removing cost-prohibitive barriers such as non-resident fees for college students we can ensure college students maintain their interest in hunting and fishing throughout college and beyond, which will help to ensure sportsmen and women remain a core contributor to fish and wildlife conservation and our economy for generations to come.
States Involved: OH
CSF EXPRESSES CONCERN WITH BLM CONSERVATION RULE AS CURRENTLY WRITTEN
ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ
Why it matters: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages over 245 million acres of federal land and water and is required to maintain a multiple-use, sustained-yield mandate intended to support a wide range of issues including recreation, energy production, grazing, timber, among others. It is critical that the BLM continues to support these Congressionally mandated uses, including hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting in a manner that is consistent with the guiding principles of the BLM.
- Last Monday, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a comment letter on the BLM’s proposed “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule.
- CSF fully supports efforts to promote and advance conservation on our nation’s public lands but is concerned that this rule may have unintended consequences on sportsmen and women and other users of BLM lands, whose support is critical to maintaining the popularity of these lands.
On Monday, July 3, CSF submitted a comment letter to the Bureau of Land Management expressing concerns about unintended consequences that could potentially stem from the BLM’s proposed “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule.
CSF has concerns about the definition of “conservation” as used by the BLM in the proposed rule. In the proposal, the BLM integrates the loosely defined term “protection” into the definition of conservation. There is a long history of efforts designed to undermine the “wise use” definition of conservation and promote a “preservationist” concept of conservation, which is inconsistent with the guiding principles established by FLPMA. CSF would like to see the true sense of the definition of conservation used that supports “the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time” as established by Gifford Pinchot.
Specifically, the proposed rule seeks to establish conservation as a use of BLM lands. CSF questions the necessity of such an action as the BLM is already required to ensure the future of multiple uses and sustained yield as required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), which established the multiple uses of BLM lands. CSF believes that conservation is not a use unto itself but rather an overarching guide on how the public lands should be managed to allow for “multiple use”. Conservation serves as the tool, not the use, to achieve sustained yield to support multiple uses.
Finally, CSF has significant concerns about the lack of clarity provided in the proposed rule regarding “conservation leases”, which is arguably the centerpiece of the proposal. We believe that FLPMA provides the authority necessary to implement conservation practices without the need to establish conservation leases. CSF questions what gaps currently exist and what is unavailable to the BLM to meet conservation outcomes that improve land health and ensure the future of multiple uses. The proposed rule states “The BLM will determine whether a conservation lease is an appropriate mechanism based on the context of each proposed conservation use and application, not necessarily as a specific allocation in a land use plan”. Unfortunately, the proposed rule does not provide any insight into how the BLM will determine what is considered “an appropriate mechanism”. For conservation leases to be successful, the BLM will need to work with stakeholders and users of public lands to develop clear, realistic guidelines that do not inadvertently elevate one use over another.
Unfortunately, CSF cannot support the proposed rule as currently written and we encourage the BLM to revisit conservation as a designated use of BLM lands, revise the current protectionist language included in the definition of conservation, revisit the necessity of conservation leases, and work with state fish and wildlife agencies, sportsmen and women, and other users of public lands before any further actions are taken.
LICENSE FEE INCREASES ENACTED IN ARKANSAS, PROPOSED IN MISSOURI
ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE
Why It Matters: Through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, state fish and wildlife management agencies rely significantly on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses to support their conservation efforts. As the costs associated with these management activities continue to increase, periodic increases in licenses fees are necessary to ensure that state agencies remain able to support their state’s public trust resources.
- Last month, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) approved license fee increases that took effect on July 1. Discussions around this increase began last year to address the revenue needs of the Commission.
- The Missouri Conservation Commission (MCC) is currently accepting public comments regarding proposed license fee increases in the Show-Me State, the first such proposal in several years.
- Given the importance of license revenue to conservation efforts, even in states like Arkansas and Missouri that have complementary funding mechanisms, periodic fee increases are necessary to keep up with inflation and to ensure the longevity of state conservation programs which, in turn, protects the ability of hunters and anglers to pursue their outdoor passions.
Nobody likes to see prices increase. However, sportsmen and women, the original conservationists, continue to willingly shoulder most of the burden when it comes to funding conservation efforts across the country. Recently, the AGFC instituted a necessary fee increase for several licenses offered to sportsmen and women while the MCC has recently opened a public comment period regarding proposed fee increases in Missouri.
While these price increases often seem significant and, in some cases, burdensome, the reality is that most of these proposals are still much more affordable than many of the costs associated with participation in hunting. For example, Arkansas’ $60 increase for a Non-Resident Annual Hunting License (needed to hunt white-tailed deer) is approximately the cost of one box of quality hunting ammunition for the average deer rifle. When viewed in this context, sportsmen and women can breathe a bit easier knowing that it is through their contributions to conservation that we continue to have deer, and other game animals and sport fish, to pursue. With that in mind, licenses prices become less of a fee and more of an investment in the future of our time-honored outdoor traditions.
Such is the beauty of the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), the framework through which state fish and wildlife agencies receive a significant portion, if not the entirety, of the funding necessary for the agency to perform its duties. Through the ASCF, sportsmen and women can take pride in knowing that their participation in our shared outdoor pursuits supports the conservation of our nation’s public trust fish and wildlife resources for the benefit of all Americans.
For more information on the updated licenses fees in Arkansas, visit the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website here. Likewise, to view and comment on the proposed license fee changes in Missouri, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website here.
CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES MOVING FORWARD WITH APPROPRIATIONS BILLS, INCLUDES TOP PRIORITIES FOR CSF
ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ
Why it matters: Congress is currently considering appropriations bills that provide funding for Fiscal Year 2024. Appropriations bills significantly influence the actions taken by federal agencies by controlling spending levels, directing funding for specific purposes, or restricting certain actions by federal agencies. The passage of these bills at both the Subcommittee and Committee levels are important steps forward in protecting access for sportsmen and women.
- Last week, the House Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee passed a bill which included language to prevent the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from implementing changes to the North Atlantic right whale vessel speed restriction until a real-time monitoring program is in place to inform the rule, a significant step forward in CSF’s efforts to protect fishing and boating.
- Similarly, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Commerce appropriations bill, providing language that directs NOAA to use real-time monitoring to better conserve North Atlantic right whales.
- Additionally, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee passed a bill that includes language to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Last week, two subcommittees, the Commerce and Interior Subcommittees, of the House Appropriations Committee passed respective bills that include important access protections for sportsmen and women, particularly for boaters and anglers along the Atlantic coast. Similarly, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Commerce Appropriations bill that also includes language to help maintain access for sportsmen and women along the Atlantic Seaboard.
Specifically, the House Subcommittee on Commerce Appropriations included language that requires the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to implement real-time monitoring efforts for large Atlantic whales prior to making any changes to the North Atlantic right whale vessel speed restriction rule. A proposed rule currently under consideration by NOAA would amend the North Atlantic right whale vessel speed regulations by requiring boats 35 feet and longer to limit their speed to 10 knots from the shoreline to as far as 90 miles offshore for up to seven months of the year, which would have drastic consequences on recreational fishing and boating along the Atlantic. Additionally, the Senate Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee included language to direct NOAA to implement real-time monitoring efforts of right whales to better protect right whales with the goal of ensuring that anglers and boaters are not excessively restricted if a whale is not present in a specific area.
Finally, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee passed legislation that continues the prohibition against regulating the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which is administered by the Environmental Protection Act. Despite efforts by anti-hunting and fishing organizations, regulating the use of lead ammo and tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act is entirely inconsistent with the intent of TSCA.
The House Commerce and Interior Appropriations are set to receive full Committee votes this week and the Senate Commerce Appropriations bill will receive full Senate consideration later this Fiscal Year. CSF looks forward to working with the Appropriations Committees and the full House and Senate to see these provisions signed into law.
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