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Policy Corner Brief: MAY 2021

Policy Corner Brief: MAY 2021

Policy Corner Brief: MAY 2021

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY

Policy Corner Brief: MAY 2021

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
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CSF’s Andy Treharne Represents Hunting and Fishing Community Before Top Senate Committee

May 19, 2021 (WASHINGTON, D.C.)– Earlier today, Andy Treharne, the Senior Director of External Affairs for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during the hearing titled “Examining Biodiversity Loss: Drivers, Impacts, and Potential Solutions”.

As the sole representative from the sporting-conservation community, Treharne took the opportunity to draw the Committee’s attention to the historical contributions of America’s sportsmen and women, the true conservationists. Additionally, in his testimony, Treharne focused on 21st century conservation funding such as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, addressing terrestrial and aquatic habitat fragmentation through programs such as wildlife crossings, wildlife corridors, and fish passage. Treharne also took advantage of this opportunity to focus on collaborative conservation programs such as the recently authorized National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the “America the Beautiful” report.

CSF applauds the Committee, including Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Members Chairman Carper (DE) and Ranking Member Capito (WV), for their work to hold a strongly bipartisan, collaborative hearing. CSF appreciates the commitment of the Committee to continue leading on issues of utmost importance to our time-honored traditions of hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting.

“As the America’s original conservationists, sportsmen and women are acutely aware of increasing biodiversity loss,” said Treharne. “On the flip side of that same coin, sportsmen and women have been finding innovative ways to conserve fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats for decades. Conservation is something we as sportsmen and women have been leading on for over 80 years, and we remain fully committed and focused on doing so.”

CSF appreciates the Committee for holding a hearing on this issue as well as the opportunity to testify as a leader in the sporting-conservation community.

House Companion to 21st Century Public Land Mapping Bill Reintroduced

Highlights:

  • Last week, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Rep. Blake Moore (UT) and Reps. Russ Fulcher (ID), Joe Neguse (CO), and Kim Schrier (WA) reintroduced the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act.
  • MAPLand authorizes much needed financial resources for federal land management agencies to digitize public land mapping information.
  • MAPLand will allow hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters to more fully utilize digital and GPS technologies while recreating on public lands.

Why it matters:  Digital mapping and GPS technologies have fundamentally changed how sportsmen and women traverse federal lands. However, inconsistent, and outdated record keeping practices used by federal land management agencies limit the ability of sportsmen and women to fully take advantage of these technologies. The digitization of public easements, access points, rights-of-way, and other mapping information on public lands is critically important to ensuring that sportsmen and women are able to navigate public lands in a safe and legal manner.

Millions of America’s hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters rely on public lands and waters for recreation. Before planning a trip to a new area, any sportsmen and women can attest to the fact they spend countless hours glossing over maps on their computers or their handheld devices to get a better idea of the land or waterscape. However, a lack of clear and publicly available information often deters sportsmen and women from recreating on a given piece of public land.

Unfortunately, federal land management agencies most important to sportsmen and women, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service lack the necessary financial resources to digitize and modernize mapping information for the lands they manage.

Furthermore, for many land management agencies much of the information is still held in paper format, which is concerning as easements and rights-of-way information could be lost in perpetuity if proper documentation is lost or destroyed. For example, through no fault of their own, it is estimated the U.S. Forest has only digitized roughly 5,000 of their 37,000 recorded easements.

In order to fill this void, the MAPLand Act will authorize much needed financial resources over three years for the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and Army to accelerate the modernization and digitization of public land mapping information. The MAPLand Act also requires that public land management agencies make their information publicly available on their respective websites to be easily accessible by the public.

If enacted, the MAPLAND Act would provide better information as to: easements and rights-of-ways, whether roads and trails are open to the public, allowable types of vehicles, hunting and recreational shooting boundaries, and information on allowable types of watercraft, which is all vital information to sportsmen and women.

The introduction of the MAPLand Act builds off the reintroduction of a companion bill to MAPLand that was introduced in the Senate on March 23 by CSC Member Sen. Risch (ID) as well as CSC Leaders Sens. Martin Heinrich (NM) and Joe Manchin (WV), among others.

Department of the Interior Recognizes that Access is Key

Highlights

  • Last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a proposal to open new or expand existing hunting and fishing opportunities on 2.1 million acres across 90 national wildlife refuges and on one national fish hatchery.
  • If the Department of the Interior finalizes the proposal, it will result in the expansion of more than 6 million acres of public land for hunting and fishing opportunities since 2019.

Why it matters: Access is often cited as the number one reason that sportsmen and women no longer participate in hunting and fishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which houses national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries, annually supports more than 2.5 million hunting days and almost 8 million fishing days, making these lands and waters a critically important place for hunters and anglers.

On May 4, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) demonstrated their commitment to America’s sportsmen and women by announcing a proposal to open or expand hunting and fishing opportunities across 2.1 million acres spanning over 90 national wildlife refuges and on one national fish hatchery.

This announcement continues to build on previous efforts to increase access for sportsmen and women, which have collectively resulted in expanding access to over 4 million acres of public lands and waters that are managed by the USFWS. If the May 4 proposal is finalized, the DOI will have enhanced sporting access on more than 6 million acres.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) commends the Department of the Interior for continuing to expand access for America’s sportsmen and women across 2.1 million acres of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “As priority public uses, expanded hunting and fishing opportunities will allow sportsmen and women to continue their conservation legacy through programs like the Federal Duck Stamp which has added more than 6 million acres to the Refuge System for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and the American public.”

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work with the Department of the Interior to seek additional opportunities to enhance access for America’s sportsmen and women.

A Historic Investment for Conservation: Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Reintroduced in Congress

April 22, 2021 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) was reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Representative Debbie Dingell (MI) and CSC Member Representative Jeff Fortenberry (NE). Reintroduction of RAWA is a critical step in advancing the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) commitment to the future of America’s diverse fish and wildlife species.

As a leading member of the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife, the coalition spearheading Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation continues to work strategically to navigate this legislation through Congress.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide nearly $1.4 billion annually for conservation projects in every state and territory, and on tribal lands. Specifically, the funds authorized by RAWA will increase state fish and wildlife agencies’ capacity to implement State Wildlife Action Plans through which states have collectively defined strategies to conserve nearly 12,000 fish, wildlife, and plant species identified as “at-risk.”

“As legislative Co-Chair of the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife, I am grateful for the leadership of Representatives Dingell and Fortenberry,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “The reintroduction of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act represents one of the most significant investments in fish and wildlife conservation in the last two decades. This bipartisan legislation is crucial for ensuring an abundant and healthy future for our nation’s fish and wildlife.”

Last Congress, CSF, working in partnership with the CSC, secured House passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act as part of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. This achievement marked a historic step toward providing state fish and wildlife agencies the funding they desperately need to conserve at-risk species before more costly measures are necessary. CSF will look to build off this success in the 117th Congress.

“As we celebrate Earth Day and continue our work to combat the biodiversity crisis, bold solutions are needed to safeguard our nation’s wildlife from further decline,” said CSC Co-Chair Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12). “The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act represents a strong commitment to addressing the current biodiversity crisis using innovative, state-based management that will protect our nation’s environmental heritage for years to come.”

“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is smart upstream policy to promote continuity of habitat and prevent the costly downstream emergency room procedures of the Endangered Species Act––enhancing opportunity for birders, hikers, hunters, anglers, and the burgeoning field of ecotourism,” said CSC member Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, and co-sponsor of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA).

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act now awaits further action in the House of Representatives. CSF is working to build bipartisan support for this historic investment.

CSC House Vice-Chair Plants Trillion Trees Act in Congress

Highlights

  • Last week, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Vice-Chair and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Representative Bruce Westerman (AR) reintroduced the Trillion Trees Act.
  • This bipartisan bill seeks to conserve, restore, and grow 1 trillion trees worldwide with the goal of sequestering 205 gigatons of carbon.

Why it matters: The Trillion Trees Act will support healthy forests, abundant fish and wildlife populations, a viable forest products industry, and quality hunting and fishing opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women. The Trillion Trees Act will also help improve air, soil, and water quality by revising outdated programs and establishing innovative public-private partnerships.

One of the issues facing our national forests is a lack of funding to conduct replanting and regeneration efforts. Active forest management is key to increasing and improving forest resiliency, reducing wildfire risk, and increasing the ability of forests to sequester carbon. Through several different aspects, the Trillion Tees Act seeks to increase the health of our nation’s forests by focusing on reforestation, management, and forest products utilization.

The Trillion Trees Act will remove the existing $30 million Reforestation Trust Fund Cap and raise it to $180 million to address the U.S. Forest Service’s reforestation backlog over the next 10 years. The U.S. Forest Service has identified more than 1.3 million acres that are in critical need of replanting efforts.

The Trillion Trees Act would improve forest management on federal lands by permanently reauthorizing the Good Neighbor Authority and adding efficiencies to environmental review processes for wildlife habitat restoration, watershed protection, critical infrastructure protection, and wildland-urban interface protection projects.

The Trillion Trees Act also establishes an innovative Trillion Trees Challenge Fund to encourage public-private partnerships in non-federal reforestation efforts. Specifically, the challenge fund provides $10 million for a period of 10 years for a competitive matching grants program for state and tribal local governments, non-profits, and other entities to conduct reforestation activities and programs. The challenge fund will provide an avenue for non-federal land managers to conduct reforestation efforts on both public and private lands.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work to advance the Trillion Trees Act through the House of Representatives.

48 States Agree – Sunday Hunting Should be Allowed

Highlights

  • On April 21, the Maine Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife held a public hearing on three bills that would remove the Sunday hunting restriction – LD 1033LD 1054, and LD 1212.
  • Currently, Maine and Massachusetts are the only two states in the nation that have an outright ban on all forms of Sunday hunting.
  • Sunday hunting prohibitions serve as a hurdle for existing sportsmen and women, a barrier to entry for those who are interested in learning to hunt, a limitation on the potential economic benefits that the state would otherwise be earning, and a restraint on private landowners’ abilities to earn additional income.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, submitted a letter of support that addressed all three of these bills and spoke in favor of removing the Sunday hunting ban during the Committee’s April 21 hearing.

Why it Matters: Much to the surprise of those not on the Atlantic coast, there are states, such as Maine, that do not allow sportsmen and women to hunt on Sundays. This dated prohibition is one of the last remaining examples of the puritanical blue laws that were initially designed to encourage church attendance. Unfortunately, the ban harms the sporting community in a variety of ways in addition to state and local economies. Many individuals are unable to head afield during the normal work week due to conflicts with jobs, school, and extra-curricular activities, and are thereby forced to make a cost-benefit decision when considering purchasing a hunting license. An additional day to hunt would mean more dollars spent by hunters in restaurants, hotels, gas stations and stores throughout the state, boosting the state’s economy. Allowing farmers and other landowners to diversify their income sources by allowing an additional day of hunting on their land will also help to provide a large capital influx to rural economies that are hardest hit by the recent pandemic.

As most states have already recognized, restrictions on specific activities on Sundays are antiquated and irrelevant in today’s society. Over the past decade, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia have all made significant changes to their Sunday hunting laws, and in the case of West Virginia, have eliminated all restrictions on hunting on Sundays. Support for these antiquated bans often relies on unfounded safety concerns and the general belief that you “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” However, these perspectives fail to recognize the variety of benefits realized by the state’s sporting community and economy, and often discount the perspective of private landowners that wish to allow hunting on Sundays.

In their own respective ways, LD 1033, LD 1054, and LD 1212, intend to afford families seven-day hunting opportunities, presenting the very real likelihood that the state will see increased hunting license sales, which under the American System of Conservation Funding, would mean more revenue for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the purpose of  carrying out critical conservation efforts.

Sunday hunting authorizations also reflect a strong support for landowner rights. Property owners already have the ability to limit or completely restrict access to their lands – these bills do not remove or change those capabilities. Instead, LD 1033, LD 1054, and LD 1212 would expand private property rights by allowing landowners to fully utilize their properties as they deem fit.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, testified to the effect of these arguments during the April 21 hearing, and submitted a letter of support that favored each of these bills. CSF will continue to provide updates on the topic of Sunday hunting in Maine as they are made available.

Arkansas Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Saves Funding for Fish and Wildlife Management in the State

May 3, 2021 (LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS) – On April 29, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law House Bill 1957 (HB 1957), the Arkansas Sovereignty Act of 2021, which seeks to reaffirm second amendment protections within the state. Shortly before the enactment of HB 1957, Governor Hutchinson vetoed a bill with the same title. While both bills were similar, the previously passed Senate Bill 298 (SB 298) contained language that threatened the state’s ability to receive funding through the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Programs.

During the legislative process to override the Governor’s veto of SB 298– which the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) opposed in a letter to the legislature– Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) member Representative Jeff Wardlaw was able to quickly offer a different version of the bill that safeguarded Arkansas’s portion of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funding for the Natural State’s sportsmen and women.

“As a sportsman, I work hard so I can spend time in the woods and on the water with my family and friends,” said Representative Wardlaw. “Senate Bill 298 would have unintentionally resulted in less access to abundant natural resources here in the state. It had to be fixed, and that’s what we did with HB 1957.”

In 1937, Congress passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R), that redirected an existing 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition into a separate account in the United States Treasury that is to be used for wildlife conservation purposes with most of the revenue going back to state fish and wildlife agencies. Over the years, amendments were made to add handguns and archery equipment to the list of taxable items for this critical program. The program was so successful for funding wildlife management that anglers and the fishing industry supported a similar tax program on fishing equipment to be used for fish and aquatic resource conservation. In 1950, the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, became law. The Sport Fish Restoration Act was amended in 1984 to expand the taxable items to include electric trolling motors, and motorboat and small engine fuels.

These sportsmen and women-supported taxes, along with hunting and fishing license fees, created what is known as the American System of Conservation Funding. It is a highly successful “user pays – public benefits” System that is unique to the rest of the world.

In 2020, Arkansas received nearly $18 million in funding through these programs, which equates to about 20% of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s budget. However, the language contained in SB 298 threatened the future of this funding for Arkansas. After SB 298 passed and was transmitted to Governor Hutchinson for signature, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission received a letter from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service – the administering authority of the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Programs – indicating the State of Arkansas would be out of compliance with the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts and would no longer be able to receive these funds. Essentially, the money that Arkansans have contributed to these programs through the purchase of equipment and fuel for their outdoor pursuits would go to other states. Fortunately, Governor Hutchinson vetoed SB 298 and provided time to clean up the language in an alternative bill—HB 1957.

Through the leadership of Representative Wardlaw, along with Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Senator Missy Irvin, a potential funding crisis for fish and wildlife conservation funding in the state was averted with the passage of HB 1957 in the waning hours of the regular session of Arkansas’s 93rd General Assembly.

Montana Removes Barrier to Student Hunter and Angler Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation

Highlights:

  • College students have emerged as a key demographic for recruiting life-long hunters and anglers.
  • House Bill 647 (HB 647) reduces financial barriers to hunter and angler recruitment efforts of non-resident college students and exposes more individuals to positive hunting and fishing experiences, resulting in a larger sportsmen-friendly voting population in Montana and nationwide.
  • HB 647 was signed into law by Governor Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Greg Gianforte’s on April 30.

Why it Matters:  Sportsmen and women play an integral and unique role in providing the majority of state-level conservation funding in the United States through the American System of Conservation Funding. Since the inception of this System, state fish and wildlife agencies have received over $71 billion from sportsmen and women nationwide. Specific to Montana, sportsmen and women provided over $80 million to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in 2020 alone. As the primary funding source for state-based conservation, it is imperative that recruitment efforts are successful to counteract the nationwide downward trend in sportsmen and women participation. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s wildlife managers, political and business leaders, and members of conservation organizations. Students that learn about the important role of hunting and fishing in society will be essential to the long term viability of the outdoor sporting community.

In an increasingly urbanized society, college students have emerged as a key demographic for recruiting life-long hunters and anglers. Despite spending 9 months out of the year, or more, in the state, non-resident college students are often priced out of formative outdoor experiences due to the high costs of hunting and fishing licenses. Recognizing the need to foster the next generation of sportsmen and women, Montana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Rep. Steven Galloway worked collaboratively with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), Boone and Crockett Club, and University of Montana Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program, to address the cost prohibitive nature of non-resident college student hunting and fishing license fees through House Bill 647 (HB 647).

HB 647 allows non-resident college students to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at resident rates, so long as their home state offers a similar program, known as reciprocity. Those students who come from states without reciprocity will still be allowed to purchase hunting and angling licenses at half the cost of a regular non-resident license.

“The legislative expertise and experience of Ellary TuckerWilliams and the CSF team were critical throughout each phase of this effort,” said Joshua Millspaugh, Boone and Crockett Professor at University of Montana. “The combined forces of CSF, the Boone and Crockett Club, and the University of Montana Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program allowed us to connect with key lawmakers and stakeholder groups to produce and pass a bipartisan bill. The new fee structure for non-resident students will empower Montana’s campus-based hunter recruitment programs to reach their full potential and hopefully spur other states to adopt similar laws.”

“Since I started college at the University of Montana four years ago, I saw how students were being priced-out of an opportunity to hunt and fish. At the same time, programs to recruit student hunters and anglers were expanding and gaining popularity on campus. I’m excited to see how the passage of HB 647 will make hunting and fishing part of the Montana college experience while contributing to nationwide initiatives to recruit young-adult hunters,” said Jonathan Karlen, University of Montana undergraduate student.

“The Boone and Crockett Club is pleased to enable more young people to take to the field. We appreciate the support from the Montanan Legislature and Governor Gianforte and look forward to moving similar efforts in other states in partnership with CSF and University of Montana,” stated Tony Schoonen, Chief Executive Officer of Boone and Crockett.

HB 647 passed both the Montana House and Senate with an overwhelming majority, and Governor Sportsmen’s Caucus member Governor Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law on April 30, highlighting Montana’s dedication to the persistence of our shared outdoor heritage and wildlife conservation

30×30 Report Released Today Breathes an Air of Optimism for Sportsmen and Women, but Many Questions Still Remain

May 6, 2021 (WASHINGTON, D.C.)– In a report released today titled, “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality laid out the Biden Administration’s (Administration) long-awaited plan for the Thirty-by-Thirty Initiative (30 by 30). This report, which contained many of the priorities previously outlined by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), sets the stage for future efforts to determine what lands will count toward the 30% goal of the Initiative, and what opportunities exist to build upon existing conservation programs.

“While we are still reviewing the framework in detail, we are encouraged by the recognition that successful conservation is locally-driven; incorporates the perspectives of a range of stakeholders; and includes partnerships at the local, state, and federal levels,” said CSF president and CEO Jeff Crane. “Additionally, we applaud the Administration for engaging with hunters and anglers through the Hunt Fish 30×30 coalition and were pleased to see that several recommendations offered by the group made it into the framework.”

Throughout the report, the Administration repeatedly references the role of the hunting and angling community in the United States’ history of conservation successes. Further, it specifically calls on stakeholder engagement, including engagement from the hunting and fishing community, regarding science-based practices and programs that maintain and enhance outdoor recreational access for all Americans as locally led conservation projects are developed. Additionally, the report highlights voluntary conservation on our nation’s private working lands and forests as an integral part of successful conservation initiatives.

Furthermore, CSF was pleased to see the distinction made between conservation and preservation in the recommendations. “Notably, the President’s challenge specifically emphasizes the notion of “conservation” of the nation’s natural resources (rather than the related but different concept of “protection” or “preservation”) recognizing that many uses of our lands and waters, including of working lands, can be consistent with the long-term health and sustainability of natural systems,” the report states. The report also highlights the importance of quality conservation over quantitative goals.

While this first set of recommendations is largely consistent with many of the priorities identified by CSF and other members of the sportsmen’s community, many questions remain regarding what efforts are going to count toward the 30% objective, where we are relative to an existing baseline, and how we can ultimately reach this goal.

CSF looks forward to continuing our work with members of the sportsmen’s community and the Biden Administration to help answer these questions, refine the initiative, and ensure hunters and anglers have a seat at the table as we look for ways to build on our nation’s conservation successes.

Hunter and Angler Access Preserved in North Dakota for Another Year

Highlights:

  • In North Dakota, private lands that are not posted are currently accessible to the public for activities like hunting. However, hunters need to be aware of several changes enacted by bills that advanced in 2021.
  • North Dakota Senate Bill 2036 (SB 2036) – During the 2021-22 interim an ongoing study of access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping, and fishing will continue. The legislation also expands the online database for properties that are posted to every county in the state.
  • North Dakota Senate Bill 2144 (SB 2144) – Individuals are now required to possess a hunting or fishing license before accessing private property that is fenced in and not posted.
  • North Dakota House Bill 1113 (HB 1113) – Individuals need landowner permission prior to placing bait on private land.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and partners have worked with the North Dakota governor’s office, legislators, and the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish to protect access for sportsmen and women in North Dakota while respecting private property rights.

Why it Matters: Thousands of resident and non-resident sportsmen and women flock to North Dakota every year to chase upland birds and big game, and to fish the state’s renowned walleye fishery. The ability of the public to access non-posted private lands is one of the largest draws to the state. In terms of recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3), this system allows individuals the opportunity to experience hunting and fishing by providing easy and abundant access to land and waters within the state.  

Over the last several legislative sessions, public access to private land has been a hot button issue in North Dakota. Historically, private land that is not posted has been open and accessible to the public for hunting and fishing. This has caused some friction between the public and landowners in the state. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been working with the office of Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member North Dakota Governor Burgum, the North Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish to find a compromise that does not have negative effects on access for sportsmen.

Proposed legislation on this issue has ranged from closing all private lands to public access to being able to electronically close your land to hunting and fishing through an online database. In 2020, the online database was implemented, through a pilot program, in a handful of counties and was successful. Not much will be changing over the interim for sportsmen and women, but there are a few things they should be aware of if they live in or are planning a trip to North Dakota.

The first change is the expansion of the pilot statewide online database program where landowners can post their land. Senate Bill 2036 expanded the existing, albeit limited, database to every county in the state and landowners can either physically post their land, like they have in the past, or post their land as closed on the online database. Hunters will need to view this database before accessing private land to ensure that the land is open to hunting and angling. The second change follows Senate Bill 2144, legislation that closes all private fenced-in lands to individuals unless they hold a hunting or fishing license and are actively engaged in lawful hunting or fishing.  Finally, hunters should note that they now require permission from the landowner or landowner’s agent before placing bait on private land.

Opportunities to access such a large portion of North Dakota’s private lands for hunting and angling is why the state is popular with nonresident sportsmen and women;  a privilege not afforded in many other states. Recognizing this, the sportsmen’s community should be respectful of private land and communicate our appreciation to landowners who allow access at every opportunity.

Policy Corner Brief: MAY 2021 This article is published in the issue.
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Policy Corner Brief: MAY 2021

CSF’s Andy Treharne Represents Hunting and Fishing Community Before Top Senate Committee

May 19, 2021 (WASHINGTON, D.C.)– Earlier today, Andy Treharne, the Senior Director of External Affairs for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during the hearing titled “Examining Biodiversity Loss: Drivers, Impacts, and Potential Solutions”.

As the sole representative from the sporting-conservation community, Treharne took the opportunity to draw the Committee’s attention to the historical contributions of America’s sportsmen and women, the true conservationists. Additionally, in his testimony, Treharne focused on 21st century conservation funding such as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, addressing terrestrial and aquatic habitat fragmentation through programs such as wildlife crossings, wildlife corridors, and fish passage. Treharne also took advantage of this opportunity to focus on collaborative conservation programs such as the recently authorized National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the “America the Beautiful” report.

CSF applauds the Committee, including Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Members Chairman Carper (DE) and Ranking Member Capito (WV), for their work to hold a strongly bipartisan, collaborative hearing. CSF appreciates the commitment of the Committee to continue leading on issues of utmost importance to our time-honored traditions of hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting.

“As the America’s original conservationists, sportsmen and women are acutely aware of increasing biodiversity loss,” said Treharne. “On the flip side of that same coin, sportsmen and women have been finding innovative ways to conserve fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats for decades. Conservation is something we as sportsmen and women have been leading on for over 80 years, and we remain fully committed and focused on doing so.”

CSF appreciates the Committee for holding a hearing on this issue as well as the opportunity to testify as a leader in the sporting-conservation community.

House Companion to 21st Century Public Land Mapping Bill Reintroduced

Highlights:

  • Last week, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Rep. Blake Moore (UT) and Reps. Russ Fulcher (ID), Joe Neguse (CO), and Kim Schrier (WA) reintroduced the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act.
  • MAPLand authorizes much needed financial resources for federal land management agencies to digitize public land mapping information.
  • MAPLand will allow hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters to more fully utilize digital and GPS technologies while recreating on public lands.

Why it matters:  Digital mapping and GPS technologies have fundamentally changed how sportsmen and women traverse federal lands. However, inconsistent, and outdated record keeping practices used by federal land management agencies limit the ability of sportsmen and women to fully take advantage of these technologies. The digitization of public easements, access points, rights-of-way, and other mapping information on public lands is critically important to ensuring that sportsmen and women are able to navigate public lands in a safe and legal manner.

Millions of America’s hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters rely on public lands and waters for recreation. Before planning a trip to a new area, any sportsmen and women can attest to the fact they spend countless hours glossing over maps on their computers or their handheld devices to get a better idea of the land or waterscape. However, a lack of clear and publicly available information often deters sportsmen and women from recreating on a given piece of public land.

Unfortunately, federal land management agencies most important to sportsmen and women, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service lack the necessary financial resources to digitize and modernize mapping information for the lands they manage.

Furthermore, for many land management agencies much of the information is still held in paper format, which is concerning as easements and rights-of-way information could be lost in perpetuity if proper documentation is lost or destroyed. For example, through no fault of their own, it is estimated the U.S. Forest has only digitized roughly 5,000 of their 37,000 recorded easements.

In order to fill this void, the MAPLand Act will authorize much needed financial resources over three years for the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and Army to accelerate the modernization and digitization of public land mapping information. The MAPLand Act also requires that public land management agencies make their information publicly available on their respective websites to be easily accessible by the public.

If enacted, the MAPLAND Act would provide better information as to: easements and rights-of-ways, whether roads and trails are open to the public, allowable types of vehicles, hunting and recreational shooting boundaries, and information on allowable types of watercraft, which is all vital information to sportsmen and women.

The introduction of the MAPLand Act builds off the reintroduction of a companion bill to MAPLand that was introduced in the Senate on March 23 by CSC Member Sen. Risch (ID) as well as CSC Leaders Sens. Martin Heinrich (NM) and Joe Manchin (WV), among others.

Department of the Interior Recognizes that Access is Key

Highlights

  • Last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a proposal to open new or expand existing hunting and fishing opportunities on 2.1 million acres across 90 national wildlife refuges and on one national fish hatchery.
  • If the Department of the Interior finalizes the proposal, it will result in the expansion of more than 6 million acres of public land for hunting and fishing opportunities since 2019.

Why it matters: Access is often cited as the number one reason that sportsmen and women no longer participate in hunting and fishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which houses national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries, annually supports more than 2.5 million hunting days and almost 8 million fishing days, making these lands and waters a critically important place for hunters and anglers.

On May 4, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) demonstrated their commitment to America’s sportsmen and women by announcing a proposal to open or expand hunting and fishing opportunities across 2.1 million acres spanning over 90 national wildlife refuges and on one national fish hatchery.

This announcement continues to build on previous efforts to increase access for sportsmen and women, which have collectively resulted in expanding access to over 4 million acres of public lands and waters that are managed by the USFWS. If the May 4 proposal is finalized, the DOI will have enhanced sporting access on more than 6 million acres.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) commends the Department of the Interior for continuing to expand access for America’s sportsmen and women across 2.1 million acres of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “As priority public uses, expanded hunting and fishing opportunities will allow sportsmen and women to continue their conservation legacy through programs like the Federal Duck Stamp which has added more than 6 million acres to the Refuge System for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and the American public.”

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work with the Department of the Interior to seek additional opportunities to enhance access for America’s sportsmen and women.

A Historic Investment for Conservation: Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Reintroduced in Congress

April 22, 2021 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) was reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Representative Debbie Dingell (MI) and CSC Member Representative Jeff Fortenberry (NE). Reintroduction of RAWA is a critical step in advancing the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) commitment to the future of America’s diverse fish and wildlife species.

As a leading member of the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife, the coalition spearheading Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation continues to work strategically to navigate this legislation through Congress.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide nearly $1.4 billion annually for conservation projects in every state and territory, and on tribal lands. Specifically, the funds authorized by RAWA will increase state fish and wildlife agencies’ capacity to implement State Wildlife Action Plans through which states have collectively defined strategies to conserve nearly 12,000 fish, wildlife, and plant species identified as “at-risk.”

“As legislative Co-Chair of the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife, I am grateful for the leadership of Representatives Dingell and Fortenberry,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “The reintroduction of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act represents one of the most significant investments in fish and wildlife conservation in the last two decades. This bipartisan legislation is crucial for ensuring an abundant and healthy future for our nation’s fish and wildlife.”

Last Congress, CSF, working in partnership with the CSC, secured House passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act as part of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. This achievement marked a historic step toward providing state fish and wildlife agencies the funding they desperately need to conserve at-risk species before more costly measures are necessary. CSF will look to build off this success in the 117th Congress.

“As we celebrate Earth Day and continue our work to combat the biodiversity crisis, bold solutions are needed to safeguard our nation’s wildlife from further decline,” said CSC Co-Chair Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12). “The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act represents a strong commitment to addressing the current biodiversity crisis using innovative, state-based management that will protect our nation’s environmental heritage for years to come.”

“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is smart upstream policy to promote continuity of habitat and prevent the costly downstream emergency room procedures of the Endangered Species Act––enhancing opportunity for birders, hikers, hunters, anglers, and the burgeoning field of ecotourism,” said CSC member Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, and co-sponsor of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA).

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act now awaits further action in the House of Representatives. CSF is working to build bipartisan support for this historic investment.

CSC House Vice-Chair Plants Trillion Trees Act in Congress

Highlights

  • Last week, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Vice-Chair and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Representative Bruce Westerman (AR) reintroduced the Trillion Trees Act.
  • This bipartisan bill seeks to conserve, restore, and grow 1 trillion trees worldwide with the goal of sequestering 205 gigatons of carbon.

Why it matters: The Trillion Trees Act will support healthy forests, abundant fish and wildlife populations, a viable forest products industry, and quality hunting and fishing opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women. The Trillion Trees Act will also help improve air, soil, and water quality by revising outdated programs and establishing innovative public-private partnerships.

One of the issues facing our national forests is a lack of funding to conduct replanting and regeneration efforts. Active forest management is key to increasing and improving forest resiliency, reducing wildfire risk, and increasing the ability of forests to sequester carbon. Through several different aspects, the Trillion Tees Act seeks to increase the health of our nation’s forests by focusing on reforestation, management, and forest products utilization.

The Trillion Trees Act will remove the existing $30 million Reforestation Trust Fund Cap and raise it to $180 million to address the U.S. Forest Service’s reforestation backlog over the next 10 years. The U.S. Forest Service has identified more than 1.3 million acres that are in critical need of replanting efforts.

The Trillion Trees Act would improve forest management on federal lands by permanently reauthorizing the Good Neighbor Authority and adding efficiencies to environmental review processes for wildlife habitat restoration, watershed protection, critical infrastructure protection, and wildland-urban interface protection projects.

The Trillion Trees Act also establishes an innovative Trillion Trees Challenge Fund to encourage public-private partnerships in non-federal reforestation efforts. Specifically, the challenge fund provides $10 million for a period of 10 years for a competitive matching grants program for state and tribal local governments, non-profits, and other entities to conduct reforestation activities and programs. The challenge fund will provide an avenue for non-federal land managers to conduct reforestation efforts on both public and private lands.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work to advance the Trillion Trees Act through the House of Representatives.

48 States Agree – Sunday Hunting Should be Allowed

Highlights

  • On April 21, the Maine Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife held a public hearing on three bills that would remove the Sunday hunting restriction – LD 1033LD 1054, and LD 1212.
  • Currently, Maine and Massachusetts are the only two states in the nation that have an outright ban on all forms of Sunday hunting.
  • Sunday hunting prohibitions serve as a hurdle for existing sportsmen and women, a barrier to entry for those who are interested in learning to hunt, a limitation on the potential economic benefits that the state would otherwise be earning, and a restraint on private landowners’ abilities to earn additional income.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, submitted a letter of support that addressed all three of these bills and spoke in favor of removing the Sunday hunting ban during the Committee’s April 21 hearing.

Why it Matters: Much to the surprise of those not on the Atlantic coast, there are states, such as Maine, that do not allow sportsmen and women to hunt on Sundays. This dated prohibition is one of the last remaining examples of the puritanical blue laws that were initially designed to encourage church attendance. Unfortunately, the ban harms the sporting community in a variety of ways in addition to state and local economies. Many individuals are unable to head afield during the normal work week due to conflicts with jobs, school, and extra-curricular activities, and are thereby forced to make a cost-benefit decision when considering purchasing a hunting license. An additional day to hunt would mean more dollars spent by hunters in restaurants, hotels, gas stations and stores throughout the state, boosting the state’s economy. Allowing farmers and other landowners to diversify their income sources by allowing an additional day of hunting on their land will also help to provide a large capital influx to rural economies that are hardest hit by the recent pandemic.

As most states have already recognized, restrictions on specific activities on Sundays are antiquated and irrelevant in today’s society. Over the past decade, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia have all made significant changes to their Sunday hunting laws, and in the case of West Virginia, have eliminated all restrictions on hunting on Sundays. Support for these antiquated bans often relies on unfounded safety concerns and the general belief that you “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” However, these perspectives fail to recognize the variety of benefits realized by the state’s sporting community and economy, and often discount the perspective of private landowners that wish to allow hunting on Sundays.

In their own respective ways, LD 1033, LD 1054, and LD 1212, intend to afford families seven-day hunting opportunities, presenting the very real likelihood that the state will see increased hunting license sales, which under the American System of Conservation Funding, would mean more revenue for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the purpose of  carrying out critical conservation efforts.

Sunday hunting authorizations also reflect a strong support for landowner rights. Property owners already have the ability to limit or completely restrict access to their lands – these bills do not remove or change those capabilities. Instead, LD 1033, LD 1054, and LD 1212 would expand private property rights by allowing landowners to fully utilize their properties as they deem fit.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, testified to the effect of these arguments during the April 21 hearing, and submitted a letter of support that favored each of these bills. CSF will continue to provide updates on the topic of Sunday hunting in Maine as they are made available.

Arkansas Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Saves Funding for Fish and Wildlife Management in the State

May 3, 2021 (LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS) – On April 29, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law House Bill 1957 (HB 1957), the Arkansas Sovereignty Act of 2021, which seeks to reaffirm second amendment protections within the state. Shortly before the enactment of HB 1957, Governor Hutchinson vetoed a bill with the same title. While both bills were similar, the previously passed Senate Bill 298 (SB 298) contained language that threatened the state’s ability to receive funding through the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Programs.

During the legislative process to override the Governor’s veto of SB 298– which the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) opposed in a letter to the legislature– Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) member Representative Jeff Wardlaw was able to quickly offer a different version of the bill that safeguarded Arkansas’s portion of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funding for the Natural State’s sportsmen and women.

“As a sportsman, I work hard so I can spend time in the woods and on the water with my family and friends,” said Representative Wardlaw. “Senate Bill 298 would have unintentionally resulted in less access to abundant natural resources here in the state. It had to be fixed, and that’s what we did with HB 1957.”

In 1937, Congress passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R), that redirected an existing 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition into a separate account in the United States Treasury that is to be used for wildlife conservation purposes with most of the revenue going back to state fish and wildlife agencies. Over the years, amendments were made to add handguns and archery equipment to the list of taxable items for this critical program. The program was so successful for funding wildlife management that anglers and the fishing industry supported a similar tax program on fishing equipment to be used for fish and aquatic resource conservation. In 1950, the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, became law. The Sport Fish Restoration Act was amended in 1984 to expand the taxable items to include electric trolling motors, and motorboat and small engine fuels.

These sportsmen and women-supported taxes, along with hunting and fishing license fees, created what is known as the American System of Conservation Funding. It is a highly successful “user pays – public benefits” System that is unique to the rest of the world.

In 2020, Arkansas received nearly $18 million in funding through these programs, which equates to about 20% of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s budget. However, the language contained in SB 298 threatened the future of this funding for Arkansas. After SB 298 passed and was transmitted to Governor Hutchinson for signature, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission received a letter from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service – the administering authority of the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Programs – indicating the State of Arkansas would be out of compliance with the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts and would no longer be able to receive these funds. Essentially, the money that Arkansans have contributed to these programs through the purchase of equipment and fuel for their outdoor pursuits would go to other states. Fortunately, Governor Hutchinson vetoed SB 298 and provided time to clean up the language in an alternative bill—HB 1957.

Through the leadership of Representative Wardlaw, along with Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Senator Missy Irvin, a potential funding crisis for fish and wildlife conservation funding in the state was averted with the passage of HB 1957 in the waning hours of the regular session of Arkansas’s 93rd General Assembly.

Montana Removes Barrier to Student Hunter and Angler Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation

Highlights:

  • College students have emerged as a key demographic for recruiting life-long hunters and anglers.
  • House Bill 647 (HB 647) reduces financial barriers to hunter and angler recruitment efforts of non-resident college students and exposes more individuals to positive hunting and fishing experiences, resulting in a larger sportsmen-friendly voting population in Montana and nationwide.
  • HB 647 was signed into law by Governor Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Greg Gianforte’s on April 30.

Why it Matters:  Sportsmen and women play an integral and unique role in providing the majority of state-level conservation funding in the United States through the American System of Conservation Funding. Since the inception of this System, state fish and wildlife agencies have received over $71 billion from sportsmen and women nationwide. Specific to Montana, sportsmen and women provided over $80 million to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in 2020 alone. As the primary funding source for state-based conservation, it is imperative that recruitment efforts are successful to counteract the nationwide downward trend in sportsmen and women participation. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s wildlife managers, political and business leaders, and members of conservation organizations. Students that learn about the important role of hunting and fishing in society will be essential to the long term viability of the outdoor sporting community.

In an increasingly urbanized society, college students have emerged as a key demographic for recruiting life-long hunters and anglers. Despite spending 9 months out of the year, or more, in the state, non-resident college students are often priced out of formative outdoor experiences due to the high costs of hunting and fishing licenses. Recognizing the need to foster the next generation of sportsmen and women, Montana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Rep. Steven Galloway worked collaboratively with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), Boone and Crockett Club, and University of Montana Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program, to address the cost prohibitive nature of non-resident college student hunting and fishing license fees through House Bill 647 (HB 647).

HB 647 allows non-resident college students to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at resident rates, so long as their home state offers a similar program, known as reciprocity. Those students who come from states without reciprocity will still be allowed to purchase hunting and angling licenses at half the cost of a regular non-resident license.

“The legislative expertise and experience of Ellary TuckerWilliams and the CSF team were critical throughout each phase of this effort,” said Joshua Millspaugh, Boone and Crockett Professor at University of Montana. “The combined forces of CSF, the Boone and Crockett Club, and the University of Montana Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program allowed us to connect with key lawmakers and stakeholder groups to produce and pass a bipartisan bill. The new fee structure for non-resident students will empower Montana’s campus-based hunter recruitment programs to reach their full potential and hopefully spur other states to adopt similar laws.”

“Since I started college at the University of Montana four years ago, I saw how students were being priced-out of an opportunity to hunt and fish. At the same time, programs to recruit student hunters and anglers were expanding and gaining popularity on campus. I’m excited to see how the passage of HB 647 will make hunting and fishing part of the Montana college experience while contributing to nationwide initiatives to recruit young-adult hunters,” said Jonathan Karlen, University of Montana undergraduate student.

“The Boone and Crockett Club is pleased to enable more young people to take to the field. We appreciate the support from the Montanan Legislature and Governor Gianforte and look forward to moving similar efforts in other states in partnership with CSF and University of Montana,” stated Tony Schoonen, Chief Executive Officer of Boone and Crockett.

HB 647 passed both the Montana House and Senate with an overwhelming majority, and Governor Sportsmen’s Caucus member Governor Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law on April 30, highlighting Montana’s dedication to the persistence of our shared outdoor heritage and wildlife conservation

30×30 Report Released Today Breathes an Air of Optimism for Sportsmen and Women, but Many Questions Still Remain

May 6, 2021 (WASHINGTON, D.C.)– In a report released today titled, “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality laid out the Biden Administration’s (Administration) long-awaited plan for the Thirty-by-Thirty Initiative (30 by 30). This report, which contained many of the priorities previously outlined by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), sets the stage for future efforts to determine what lands will count toward the 30% goal of the Initiative, and what opportunities exist to build upon existing conservation programs.

“While we are still reviewing the framework in detail, we are encouraged by the recognition that successful conservation is locally-driven; incorporates the perspectives of a range of stakeholders; and includes partnerships at the local, state, and federal levels,” said CSF president and CEO Jeff Crane. “Additionally, we applaud the Administration for engaging with hunters and anglers through the Hunt Fish 30×30 coalition and were pleased to see that several recommendations offered by the group made it into the framework.”

Throughout the report, the Administration repeatedly references the role of the hunting and angling community in the United States’ history of conservation successes. Further, it specifically calls on stakeholder engagement, including engagement from the hunting and fishing community, regarding science-based practices and programs that maintain and enhance outdoor recreational access for all Americans as locally led conservation projects are developed. Additionally, the report highlights voluntary conservation on our nation’s private working lands and forests as an integral part of successful conservation initiatives.

Furthermore, CSF was pleased to see the distinction made between conservation and preservation in the recommendations. “Notably, the President’s challenge specifically emphasizes the notion of “conservation” of the nation’s natural resources (rather than the related but different concept of “protection” or “preservation”) recognizing that many uses of our lands and waters, including of working lands, can be consistent with the long-term health and sustainability of natural systems,” the report states. The report also highlights the importance of quality conservation over quantitative goals.

While this first set of recommendations is largely consistent with many of the priorities identified by CSF and other members of the sportsmen’s community, many questions remain regarding what efforts are going to count toward the 30% objective, where we are relative to an existing baseline, and how we can ultimately reach this goal.

CSF looks forward to continuing our work with members of the sportsmen’s community and the Biden Administration to help answer these questions, refine the initiative, and ensure hunters and anglers have a seat at the table as we look for ways to build on our nation’s conservation successes.

Hunter and Angler Access Preserved in North Dakota for Another Year

Highlights:

  • In North Dakota, private lands that are not posted are currently accessible to the public for activities like hunting. However, hunters need to be aware of several changes enacted by bills that advanced in 2021.
  • North Dakota Senate Bill 2036 (SB 2036) – During the 2021-22 interim an ongoing study of access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping, and fishing will continue. The legislation also expands the online database for properties that are posted to every county in the state.
  • North Dakota Senate Bill 2144 (SB 2144) – Individuals are now required to possess a hunting or fishing license before accessing private property that is fenced in and not posted.
  • North Dakota House Bill 1113 (HB 1113) – Individuals need landowner permission prior to placing bait on private land.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and partners have worked with the North Dakota governor’s office, legislators, and the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish to protect access for sportsmen and women in North Dakota while respecting private property rights.

Why it Matters: Thousands of resident and non-resident sportsmen and women flock to North Dakota every year to chase upland birds and big game, and to fish the state’s renowned walleye fishery. The ability of the public to access non-posted private lands is one of the largest draws to the state. In terms of recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3), this system allows individuals the opportunity to experience hunting and fishing by providing easy and abundant access to land and waters within the state.  

Over the last several legislative sessions, public access to private land has been a hot button issue in North Dakota. Historically, private land that is not posted has been open and accessible to the public for hunting and fishing. This has caused some friction between the public and landowners in the state. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been working with the office of Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member North Dakota Governor Burgum, the North Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish to find a compromise that does not have negative effects on access for sportsmen.

Proposed legislation on this issue has ranged from closing all private lands to public access to being able to electronically close your land to hunting and fishing through an online database. In 2020, the online database was implemented, through a pilot program, in a handful of counties and was successful. Not much will be changing over the interim for sportsmen and women, but there are a few things they should be aware of if they live in or are planning a trip to North Dakota.

The first change is the expansion of the pilot statewide online database program where landowners can post their land. Senate Bill 2036 expanded the existing, albeit limited, database to every county in the state and landowners can either physically post their land, like they have in the past, or post their land as closed on the online database. Hunters will need to view this database before accessing private land to ensure that the land is open to hunting and angling. The second change follows Senate Bill 2144, legislation that closes all private fenced-in lands to individuals unless they hold a hunting or fishing license and are actively engaged in lawful hunting or fishing.  Finally, hunters should note that they now require permission from the landowner or landowner’s agent before placing bait on private land.

Opportunities to access such a large portion of North Dakota’s private lands for hunting and angling is why the state is popular with nonresident sportsmen and women;  a privilege not afforded in many other states. Recognizing this, the sportsmen’s community should be respectful of private land and communicate our appreciation to landowners who allow access at every opportunity.

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