Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities bill harbors anti-Wilderness attack

Sep 9, 2011

Editor's note: The name and bill number of the “Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act” (H.R 2834) has been changed to the “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act” (H.R. 4089)

Bill could lead to destruction of quality hunting and fishing habitat

The Wilderness Society strongly urged the House Natural Resources Committee today to remove a provision buried in H.R. 2834, the “Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act” that would eviscerate the Wilderness Act of 1964.

While the bill’s laudable intention is to provide for continued recreational hunting and fishing opportunities on our federal public lands, Section 4(e) would allow activities that are incompatible in Wilderness -- such as motorized access, road construction, and even logging -- that would destroy the pristine characteristics of designated Wilderness Areas.

In a letter to the House National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee, The Wilderness Society’s President, William H. Meadows, pointed out that:

…the bill declares that “any requirements imposed by [the Wilderness Act] shall be implemented only insofar as they facilitate or enhance the original or primary purpose or purposes for which the Federal public lands or Federal public land unit was established and do not materially interfere with or hinder such purpose or purposes” (Sec. 4(e)(2)).  This sweeping limitation on the Wilderness Act’s requirements is not limited in the draft bill to requirements affecting hunting, fishing, and shooting; therefore, it presumably covers all other land use activities as well, including logging, oil and gas drilling, road construction, buildings, mining, and commercial development.  Since one of the original purposes of the national forests (as provided by the Organic Administration Act of 1897, 16 U.S.C. 475) is “to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States,” H.R. 2834 could effectively lift the Wilderness Act’s prohibition on logging road construction and timber cutting in all national forest Wilderness Areas.

“Contrary to the title of the bill, language in it will actually ruin quality hunting and fishing experiences in our nation’s Wilderness Areas,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “Millions of Americans enjoy recreational hunting and fishing every year, including in Wilderness Areas, and that in turn supports local economies.”

Another provision of the bill, Section 4(c)(1)(B), would preclude the use of the National Environmental Policy Act in making hunting and fishing management decisions on our public lands and forests. 

To view The Wilderness Society’s statement for the record, please visit: http://wilderness.org/files/Statement-for-Record-HR-2834.pdf

While the “Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act” contains unfortunate language that would eviscerate the Wilderness Act itself, the House Natural Resources Committee is considering another bill that would further erode protection of wilderness-quality BLM lands and roadless National Forests. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy has introduced H.R. 1581, termed the “The Great Outdoors Giveaway”, which would give away our lands and waters to corporate polluters. The 112th Congress has already made devastating budget cuts to our most needed programs, and further cuts could result in closures in our parks, refuges and other wild places.

“We hope the House Natural Resources Committee will reconsider these attacks on our nation’s most pristine public lands,” said Meadows.  “America’s hunting and fishing heritage is important to maintain, and we need to keep our Wilderness Areas intact for present and future generations of American hunters and anglers to enjoy.”

David Alberswerth
202-429-2695