Legislation ensuring sportsmen’s access to federal lands cleared its first hurdle this week as the House Natural Resources Committee voted 28-15 in favor of H.R. 1825. Known as the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act, H.R. 1825 is the most significant legislation protecting sportsmen’s access in 16 years.
The bill shuts the door on abusive lawsuits brought by anti-hunting groups aimed at pushing sportsmen and women off federal lands. H.R. 1825 spells out in plain language that fishing, hunting and recreational shooting are legitimate and important activities on National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The key provision of the bill is the “Open Until Closed” language, which mandates that U.S. Forest Service and BLM lands are open to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless specific steps are taken to close those lands for necessary and demonstrable reasons.
The “Open Until Closed” provision is a “game changer” for the future of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on public land. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance led the charge for similar 1997 legislation that protects sportsmen’s access to National Wildlife Refuge land that has resulted in new refuges open to hunting all across America.
“It’s high time that Congress put a stop to frivolous lawsuits brought by the anti-hunting lobby and the ‘Open Until Closed’ language will do just that,” said Bill Horn, director of federal affairs for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. “American sportsmen and women are fed up with having to fight lawsuit after lawsuit just to access public lands. We urge Congress to move this critical legislation quickly.”