Senate Bill 47 (S. 47) passed the U.S. Senate last week with measures to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and support other important conservation programing across the nation.
The Natural Resource Management Act of 2019 was co-sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA. This bill represents a major commitment by Congress to our public lands, outdoor recreation industry and the heritage of sportsmen and women nationwide. In early February, 43 organizations submitted a letter of support for this legislation, including the National Wildlife Federation, which MUCC is an affiliate of.
Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Joe Manchin, D-WV, specifically applauded the National Wildlife Federation for their role in working on this legislation.
First passed in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Act is one of the largest land acquisition programs ever established. However, this program has been allowed to lapse and has not ever been funded in full. It most recently expired in September of 2018. Senate Bill 47 would permanently reauthorize this fund, with three percent or $15 million of annual appropriations allocated for securing additional access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and other outdoor recreation activities. These funds are critical for the sportsmen and women of the state of Michigan, and MUCC fully supports the reauthorization of this program, said MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of our greatest resources for increasing access to our public lands,” Trotter said. “The passage of this bill would be a huge asset for the sportsmen and women of the state of Michigan.”
The value of this legislation can’t be overstated, said Sen. Murkowski, R-AK.
“This package contains huge wins for Americans,” Murkowski said in a statement. “It also expands and enhances access for our sportsmen and women on federal lands for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.”
This bill, if it becomes a law, would also amend the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, informally known as the Pittman-Robertson (PR) Act, to allow certain funds to be used for shooting sports facilities. This landmark legislation was passed in 1937 and established an excise tax on firearms and ammunition to fund state wildlife agencies. In concert with hunting and fishing license fees, PR funds from sportsmen and women make up the vast majority of state game agency budgets, like the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. By allowing these funds to be used for shooting ranges and hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation, our legislators are seeking to maintain this fund for wildlife management activities for future generations.
In addition to these two major pieces of legislation, this bill would also:
- Authorize the transportation of archery equipment through National Park Service (NPS) lands.
- Direct the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service to open lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless specifically closed.
- Direct the NPS, BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify lands where recreational access is currently restricted or unavailable.
This bill now heads to the House of Representatives for further contemplation and a vote. If the bill in identical language passes in the House, it will move to the president’s desk.