U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Poised To Shake Things Up

Right on the heels of an attack on the rights of hunters in Michigan's Huron-Manistee National Forest, the U.S. Sportsman's Alliance is set to work on a revised bill aimed at protecting hunting, fishing and shooting on public lands.
Outdoor Life Magazine broke the story on its site  and reports that the bills would reinvigorate discussion on the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act, which would guarantee that National Forest and Bureau of Land Management areas are open for hunting, fishing, and shooting unless closed out of necessity. It would also keep the Environmental Protection Agency from banning lead in ammunition or sport fishing gear.
To clarify a few misconceptions, H.R. 4089 will not make it easier for land managers to close lands to hunters for things like energy development and it will not open up Wilderness lands to new motor vehicle use or development.
Current law already allows for closures of lands open to hunting for things like energy and mineral production.  The “lands open” section of the bill merely clarifies that land managers get to keep their current authority over these matters.  It does not increase their ability to close lands for these items and it does not lessen or eliminate their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.  They’ll still have to go through the same NEPA process as they currently do when evaluating or opening new areas to energy and mineral production, etc or closing areas for hunting. The NEPA provision in the bill (Not Major Federal Action) is limited to hunting and removes duplicative and costly analysis of hunting programs that have been used by anti-hunting groups (most recently HSUS) to seek hunting closures on Refuge and other lands.
The “lands open” section will actually make it harder for them to close lands to hunters.  Under the bill, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands will be open for hunters until closed, placing the burden on these land managers to take an official agency action for a closure/restriction and show that the closure/restriction to hunting is necessary, reasonable, and supported by facts and evidence.  They’ll also have to report closures of 640 or more contiguous acres to Congress and provide public notification.
Under the current process an agency action is generally required to open new lands for hunters/fishermen and anti-hunting groups attack that process in court to stop or delay new openings.  They won’t have this opportunity under the “open until closed” provisions in H.R. 4089.
As to the Wilderness provisions in the bill, they will not open lands designated as wilderness to activities that are currently prohibited by the Wilderness Act like the use of motor vehicles, timber harvesting, or mineral extraction.
We hope this analysis clarifies any concerns about what this bill does and does not do. Stay tuned for further information on what just might be a package of very important and much-needed legislation.

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