Glacier National Park
Courtesy National Park Service
Montana Senator Jon Tester returned to Washington this week and some say his successful reelection was boosted by his strong support for conservation and the sportsmen’s community, along with his ability to find solutions and reach across the aisle.
First Order of Business
When the Senate reconvened yesterday Sen. Tester’s Sportsmen’s bill was one of the first items on the agenda. The bill is a strong package of legislation that addresses issues important to sportsmen and conservationists alike. The bill moved forward by a vote of 92 to 5 Tuesday evening, with a final vote expected later this week.
The package includes measures that would reauthorize many popular and effective programs, including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program.
In addition the bill enhances protections for critical fish and migratory bird habitat, protects endangered species and secures funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund to increase sportsmen’s access to hunting and fishing on public lands.
Hills to Climb
However, there are currently several anti-conservation amendments to this bill.
Though Senate leadership has yet to determine whether to allow amendments to come up for a vote, two of the amendments, proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), are particularly disconcerting.
The first would require Congressional approval for all Presidential National Monument designations in Utah. This runs completely counter to the original intent of the Antiquities Act, which gives the President the authority to designate Monuments.
The Act intended to allow the President to quickly intervene in cases where lands were imminently threatened, as many are today, or in cases where existing National Monument legislation is stalled in Congress.
The second alarming amendment to Tester’s Sportsmen’s bill would require the federal government to turn over all federal land in Utah to state control. This is just the most recent in a laundry list of land grab attempts by one of the most anti-conservation Congresses is history, poised to become the first Congress since 1966 to not add a single acre of wilderness.
These are clearly radical amendments designed to stall an otherwise effective piece of legislation. Tester’s bill would be a significant achievement for sportsmen, conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts who use our public lands and depend on public access in Montana and across the country.