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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting on Federal Lands: H.R. 4089 and Related Legislation

Kristina Alexander, Coordinator
Legislative Attorney

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kelsi Bracmort
Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 (H.R. 4089) is intended to create an “open until closed” management policy for federal lands, according to the House Committee Report. It describes the criteria for federal land management agencies to consider in order to close federal lands to fishing, hunting, or recreational shooting, and directs that management is subject to existing law. However, some ambiguities may lead to different, perhaps unintended results. H.R. 4089 passed the House on April 17, 2012. H.R. 4089 is identical to S.Amdt. 2302 to the 2012 Farm Bill (S. 3240). S.Amdt. 2232, the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012, covers similar topics, but differs from H.R. 4089, and is not analyzed in this report.

Hunting and fishing are already allowed on the majority of federal lands. Because H.R. 4089 would change land management practices and would require additional or different analyses, reports, and notices, the bill would alter federal land management by adding or changing steps in the planning process. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Title II of H.R. 4089, for example, would cost $12 million over the first four years.

Title I establishes the processes for federal land management agencies to close federal lands to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, and is almost identical to Senate bill S. 2066. Title II addresses recreational shooting in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) national monuments. While the associated House Committee Report refers to H.R. 4089 affecting lands managed by BLM and the Forest Service almost exclusively, the bills’ broad definition of federal public lands could lead to portions of H.R. 4089/S. 2066 extending to all agencies that own land.

Wilderness areas may be most altered by the bills. While the Wilderness Act already allows hunting and fishing, H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would appear to allow any activity related to those activities, as well as to recreational shooting. This may mean that structures could be built in wilderness areas or mechanized transport could be allowed, which are activities that are banned under current law; however, this is not clear since another provision appears to continue to ban motorized access.

Titles III through VI address issues related to hunting, fishing, or federal lands. Title III would reverse the administrative rule in place since May 15, 2008, which banned the import of sporthunted polar bears from Canada. It would allow the import of polar bear trophies by applicants who sought an import permit prior to that date, when the polar bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Senate bills S. 2066 and S. 1066 would also direct issuance of those permits. However, in 2011, a federal court rejected a suit to allow such imports.

Title IV of H.R. 4089 would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating lead shot and lead sinkers, as would S. 838. EPA, however, denies it has the authority to take such action, while state laws could still restrict the use of lead shot and sinkers. Reversing a 2012 Forest Service decision, Title V would allow deer hunters in the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana to use hunting dogs without restriction. Title VI would limit the President’s ability to establish national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 by requiring both the governor and legislature of the affected state to approve designations.

Date of Report: June 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: R42569
Price: $29.95

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