Sen. Kay Hagan on Wednesday introduced a bill that she calls the Sportsmen’s and Public Outdoor Recreation Traditions (SPORT) Act. Some of its key provisions are to expand access to federal public lands, partly by improving easements through private property to get there, and increasing federal funding support for wildlife habitat protection.
Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, said in a statement it’s an important way to increase jobs in North Carolina and nationwide.
“Hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing are important parts of North Carolina’s heritage, as well as crucial economic drivers in our state,” she said, adding that North Carolina has 1.5 million sportsmen. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation contributes more than $19 billion annually to North Carolina’s economy, supports 192,000 jobs in the state and generates $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Hagan, who faces a re-election race next year, is co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (along with Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota). Her legislation also includes reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which funds habitat protection for migratory birds, including nearly 70,000 acres in North Carolina.
It also exempts sportsmen trust funds from the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. The money in these funds are from excise taxes hunters and anglers pay on bows and arrows, guns and ammunition, fishing tackle and equipment, and motorboat fuel. Hagan, Thune and others last week sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget calling for the release of $50 million sequestered from the Trust Funds this year.
And the bill excludes ammunition and tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act. That law allows the EPA to regulate chemicals when they pose a serious risk to health or the environment. Sportsmen’s groups have opposed proposals to restrict the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle that contains lead. The law Hagan proposed said the decision should be up to state fish and game agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, earlier proposed her own sportsmen’s legislation – the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act. Most of its co-sponsors are Republicans. It remains to be seen if Republicans and Democrats unite sufficiently to get a bill that would pass both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Hagan’s bill has support from a number of state hunting and wildlife groups.
Steve Kline, director of government relations for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a coalition of groups who support hunting and fishing nationwide, said the Hagan legislation is “full of good stuff – a lot of essential sportsmen’s priorities that need to get done.
“We shouldn’t have any challenges in getting a bipartisan bill done because conservation and sportsmen’s issues are inherently bipartisan,” Kline said. “We appreciate that Sen. Hagan has taken this step.”