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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time for Anglers and Hunters to be Represented in Congress and in the Media

I like to try to keep current on what other conservation bloggers are writing.  There are about six or eight conservation blogs that I try to follow.  Some of them keep me current on events or issues that I wouldn’t otherwise hear about.  Others sometimes give me a spark of inspiration for a future blog post here in Stream Hugger. Some do both.

A couple of days ago, I came across a post on the Trout Unlimited blog about a topic that I never read or heard reported in the mainstream media:  The Sportsmen's Act of 2012 (Senate Bill No. 3525).  This was a fully funded, bi-partisan piece of legislation that would have improved fish and game habitat throughout American and also would have improved accessibility of those habitats.  It would have boosted conservation on private lands and enhanced collaborative efforts between private conservation organizations (like TU) and state and federal agencies.  Would have. 

The 2012 legislative session came to a close without the Senate scheduling this bill for a vote, so the bill is now dead in it’s boots.

With looming fiscal cliffs filling the headlines of the mainstream media for the past month and hearings and press conferences about who knew what and when about the Benghazi attack, it’s easy to see how the Sportsmen’s Act could have gotten lost in the commotion on Capitol Hill over the past couple of weeks.  But passing legislation like the Sportsmen’s Act is kind of like putting a fresh coat of paint on your house.  It’s not fun, it’s not glamorous, but it has to be done periodically to preserve your investment.

Thanks to the foresight 100 years ago of conservation pioneers like Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and John Muir, the United States is rich with treasures of public lands that are open for sporting pursuits such as fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, kayaking, and birding.  Our public lands are a valuable asset that must be maintained just like our homes.  It’s easy to procrastinate painting our houses when other, unexpected bills arrive in our mailboxes.  But to procrastinate an over-due paint job on our dwelling for too many years in a row can be as injurious to our home as failing to maintain and make accessible the state and federal public lands that we all treasure.

As I pointed out in one of my posts a couple months ago, outdoor recreation activities annually contribute $646 billion in direct consumer spending to the U.S. economy.  This spending on outdoor activities and products supports 6.1 million jobs and generates $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue each year.  Being responsible for this kind of tax revenue, outdoor enthusiasts deserve to be better represented in Congress and in the mainstream media.

American anglers and hunters stand ready and willing to support a resurrected Sportsmen’s Act bill. We just need our leaders in Congress to step up and re-introduce the bill.  And we also need the mainstream media to pay attention to outdoor issues like this bill.  There are certainly enough Americans who enjoy outdoor recreation that a bill like the Sportsmen’s Act should be on the mainstream media’s radar and not limited to niche blogs like TU’s or mine.
Part of our national heritage:  the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.  I was fortunate to camp for two weeks in the Gros Ventre Wilderness Area within this National Forest in the mid-1990s. (photo credit:  U.S. Forest Service).

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