Tester Introduces Bills to Improve Access for Sportsmen

Environment & Energy Daily

Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) yesterday introduced a package of more than 20 bills to improve hunting and angling access on public lands and to promote conservation of wildlife.

Tester’s S. 3525 is similar to a package of hunting, fishing and conservation bills he offered as an amendment in late spring to the Senate’s farm bill (Greenwire, June 7). That measure, which did not receive a vote, carried broad bipartisan support and was co-sponsored by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Tester’s staff said.

The new proposal, which is supported by an array of groups including the National Rifle Association, includes Tester’s bill to ensure a cut of federal conservation funding is used to secure access routes for sportsmen and other public lands users. Other language would allow funding for target shooting on public lands, make it easier to purchase waterfowl hunting permits and reauthorize a popular program to conserve wetlands, among many other proposals.

The measure was placed directly on the Senate calendar, meaning it doesn’t need a committee hearing or markup to be passed. ATester aide said the senator will push strongly for the measure to be considered later this week depending on the outcome of a cloture vote on the “Veterans Jobs Corps Act.”

It is unclear whether the Senate is likely to take action on the bill.

Tester, who faces a tough re-election race with Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), in June said the package would support both wildlife and the sportsmen who hunt and catch them.

The package would also permit the transportation of bows through national parks, require a study of artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and extend the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act.

It would also extend the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, a popular law that allows lands agencies to sell low-value parcels and use the proceeds to acquire lands for conservation.

The package includes two titles from a sportsmen’s package the House passed last spring, including language barring U.S. EPA from regulating lead bullets or fishing tackle and to allow the importation of polar bears that were legally harvested before they were listed on the endangered species list.

However, like the farm bill amendment, it leaves out some of the more controversial provisions in the House package that some conservationists argued are a threat to roadless lands and national parks.

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