U.S. Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) this week introduced H.R. 3962, Making Public Lands Public, a bill to expand and enhance access to public lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) strongly supports this legislation and the key work of Congressman Daines on its behalf.
This important legislation would dedicate a portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to enhancing access on existing public lands, specifically for small parcels, easements or rights of way that open access to Federal land that is inaccessible or significantly restricted. Similar legislation, introduced in both the Senate and House (S.901 and H.R.1997) in the 112th Congress, enjoyed the support of more than 40 sportsmen’s organizations.
“Nearly half of all hunters conduct a portion of their hunting activity on public lands and lack of access is cited as the primary reason that hunters, anglers and target shooters stop participating in these traditional activities, said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “Opening access to the public lands that U.S. citizens own is not only vital to preserving America’s sporting heritage, but it will also serve to benefit the economy.”
In 2011, sportsmen spent nearly $90 billion on their outdoor pursuits. Additionally, excise taxes on fishing, hunting, shooting equipment and motorboat fuel as well as fees for licenses and stamps are all dedicated toward state fish and wildlife management programs. Coupled with the generous support of conservation organizations, this generates nearly $3 billion a year for conservation efforts.
Making Public Lands Public has the potential to open hundreds of thousands of acres of federal public land to hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities at no additional cost to the American taxpayer. Specifying a portion of LWCF for access-related projects will positively impact the American public by allowing them increased access to America’s great outdoors while simultaneously fueling the American economy.