U.S. House Votes to Protect Hunting / Shooting on Public Land

With bipartisan support the U.S. House of Representatives today approved the most significant pro-sportsmen legislation in 15 years.  H.R. 4089, which passed by a vote of 274-146, is a package of high priority issues supported by every nationally prominent conservation and sportsmen’s organization.  The bill was supported by 235 Republicans and 39 Democrats.

Entitled The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012, H.R. 4089:

  • Classifies Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands as open to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless closed or restricted based on scientific evidence;
  • Confirms that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot ban lead in traditional ammunition or in sport fishing gear;
  • Protects recreational shooting on BLM National Monument land; and
  • Allows the import of legally hunted polar bear trophies now tangled in federal red-tape.

A major focus of the organizations that helped craft H.R. 4089 is to prevent frivolous lawsuits that unfairly restrict the rights of hunters, anglers and shooters and limit wildlife conservation and management.  Over the last decade anti-hunting groups and their trial lawyers have filed multiple suits in courts arguing that existing federal law does not allow, or requires restrictions on fishing, hunting, and shooting on federal public lands.  Defending against these suits has cost state and federal wildlife agencies and sportsmen’s organizations, including the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), millions of dollars.

In 1998, USSA first proposed that federal BLM and Forest Service lands, which total over 700 million acres, be declared legally open to fishing, hunting and shooting unless closed by specific agency action.  In the intervening years, USSA has worked to persuade the sporting community and Congress of the need for such legislation.  House passage of H.R. 4089 is the result of this long effort to build strong legal barriers against anti-hunters and the animal rights lobby.

The bill also protects fishing tackle and ammunition from attacks.  Recently, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government to force the U.S. EPA to ban the use of lead in ammunition and fishing tackle.  Their claim misrepresented the intent of the Toxic Substance Control Act which was enacted in 1976 to allow the EPA to regulate new commercial chemicals entering the market and the distribution of existing chemicals found to pose unreasonable risks to public health or the environment.  It was never intended to allow the regulation of ammunition and fishing tackle.

“H.R. 4089 spells out in plain language that hunting, fishing and recreational shooting are legitimate uses of federal public lands and that these lands are open, as a matter of law, to these traditional activities,” said Bud Pidgeon, USSA president and CEO.  “And it makes it crystal clear that the U.S. EPA does not have the authority to restrict American’s choices of ammunition and fishing tackle.”

In addition to USSA, H.R. 4089 is supported by an array of sporting conservation groups including the American Sportfishing Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, and Safari Club International.  A complete listing of supporters can be found here.

Find out how your Representative voted on H.R. 4089.