Had enough of the political ads, political talk and political nonsense yet?
I certainly can't blame you there, but now is not the time to simply ignore all things Washington.
Why? Because the future of hunting and fishing may be at stake.
H.R. 2406, the Shooting, Hunting and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE), passed out of the U.S. House of Representative's calendar late last week.
The Senate version of the package, the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2015 (S.659), moved out of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works in late January and is awaiting further action.
Similar versions of these bills have been introduced in previous years — and all have stalled out prior to reaching the President's desk. The fact that the House package has passed is great news, but the job is not yet done.
Political pundits give the packages slightly less than a 50-percent chance of enactment. This is why we, as hunters and anglers, simply cannot afford to hide out until after the November elections are done and the robocalls mercifully come to an end.
We need to speak up. Now.
How This Bill Helps Sportsmen
"We're happy to see this legislation clear the House and move forward with bipartisan support — it's a step in the right direction for what we hope is a truly comprehensive final package that the president can sign into law," says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. "What's important now is Senate action on a suite of sportsmen's priorities, including provisions aimed not only at expanding access but also at investing in key habitat conservation programs. Open gates aren't much good if there isn't quality habitat behind them."
Aiding Public-land Access
Public access and quality habitat on public land are more than just feel-good measures. They're critical factors in the longevity of hunting and fishing.
Lack of access to areas for hunting and fishing is one of top reasons given by those who have left the outdoors. Don't think for a moment that anti-hunting and anti-fishing groups haven't studied that data. Attacking the places that many sportsmen and women rely on is a primary point of emphasis. When we lose access to public lands, we lose hunters and anglers.
Both bills contain "open until closed" language that would require federal land managers to create and support access on public lands for hunting and fishing and would prevent the National Park Service from arbitrarily closing areas previously open to those uses.
The recently-passed SHARE Act, for example, included an amendment that would prohibit the USDA and Forest Service from restricting hunting and fishing in the Mark Twain National Forest.
Defending Against The Lead Ban
Another back-door tactic often attempted by animal rights groups opposed to hunting and fishing is a ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle. The SHARE act contains language that would make banning lead in ammunition and fishing tackle much more difficult.
If you care nothing about public-land access or preventing a ban on lead ammo and tackle, perhaps you do care about state-led management of wolves.
Managing Wolves The Right Way
The Sportsmen's Act moved out of the Senate committee with an important amendment that would remove Federal protection of wolves in Michigan, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The SHARE Act was also amended on the House floor to include a similar provision prior to its passage. Why is this important?
Simple. Animal Rights groups have bastardized the Endangered Species Act to the point of rendering it virtually unrecognizable. In the Great Lakes region, for example, wolf populations have been far above the legal requirement for removal from ESA protections for more than two decades. And yet the species remain on the ESA list, preventing science-based management to occur under the direction of state managers.
Congressional action would help to provide some relief to regions where the antics of animal rights zealots (and their lawyers) have turned the wolf from a celebrated apex predator on the landscape to an unwanted and unchecked population that's had marked and negative impacts on game populations.
"House passage of the SHARE Act is a win for hunters, anglers, and all sportsmen and women across the country," said Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) President Jeff Crane. "The Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus leadership has been continuously working with CSF and our partners to ensure that the most important bills to the sportsmen's community are included in the package."
How You Can Help
So how do you make a difference? It's pretty simple actually. Contact your legislators, specifically your Senator and urge them to move on the Sportsman's Act.
To take action and contact your Senator, visit the National Shooting Sports Foundation's action center