As America’s 40 million sportsmen and women head afield to deer stands and duck blinds this month, senators and representatives attempt to wrap up the 114th Congress and a lame duck session that provides an opportunity to finally send bills committed to hunting and fishing priorities to the president’s desk. After six years of support from sportsmen, legislation that is critical to fish and wildlife habitat and public land access has been bundled and passed out of both House and Senate chambers along strongly bipartisan lines (including a 97-0 vote in the Senate), and now these bills are closer than they’ve ever been to the finish line.
The 114th Congress should not adjourn without passing these bills with critical benefits for conservation and sportsmen’s access.
There is some belief that the next Congress, and the next administration, might prove easier to get a sportsmen’s legislative package signed into law. But sportsmen have seen these policy priorities delayed now for six years, mired in gridlock, with the clock running out time and again. The prospect of more delay is certainly discouraging. The makeup of next year’s Senate calendar proves that now is the time to pass these bipartisan measures. While lawmakers will be tasked with more than one thousand confirmations, including a Supreme Court justice, plus finishing the 2017 appropriations process and beginning the fiscal 2018 budget process, it is difficult to see just when the Senate might return to sportsmen’s provisions—it certainly won’t be quickly.
The time is now, on this Congress’s watch, when so much progress has already been made. The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act in the Senate, and the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act in the House, currently on the table as part of the broader energy bill conference, combine to benefit not only America’s hunters and anglers, but all Americans who care about accessible public lands, clean water, and productive fish and wildlife habitat. These provisions also directly benefit the $90-billion hunting and fishing economy, a part of the $640 billion spent on outdoor recreation in the U.S. each year.
This election season has divided the nation and highlighted our differences. Conservation, the outdoors, and our hunting and fishing sports have never been partisan issues. Instead, these things unite us as Americans.
Of course, Congress has a list of things that must get done before the end of the year and the conclusion of the 114th, including a funding agreement, a defense authorization, and a Water Resources Development Act. America’s hunters and anglers would like to add a bipartisan sportsmen’s package to that important list.
Jeff Crane is the president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Whit Fosburgh is the president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.