There is no greater friend of conservation and no greater protector of the natural treasures of our country than America’s sportsmen. Every year, sportsmen pump billions of dollars into the economy. At the same time, they provide the money through taxes and fees that fund wildlife officers and conservation efforts in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and on private land.
Despite all these contributions, there is still much that we need to do to protect the rights of sportsmen and to ensure that our nation’s natural resources remain open and available to future generations of those who love the outdoors. The Sportsmen’s Act—legislation I am cosponsoring in the United States Senate—is designed to do just that.
Countless Ohioans enjoy hunting and fishing, but not all of them have access to private land where they can partake in these activities. It’s not surprising that access to public lands is the number one issue for America’s sportsmen, and loss of that access is the number one reason people stop hunting and fishing. Reports by the Department of Interior have found that large amounts of public land have inadequate access for sportsmen.
The Sportsmen’s Act helps to address that problem. This legislation would protect the public right to engage in recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting on public lands. It requires that all lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service remain open to outdoorsmen. And it provides legislative support to Executive Order 13443, which directs federal land management agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting on federal lands, and ensures sound scientific management of wildlife and their habitat.
This legislation also removes some of the regulatory barriers that make taking advantage of our public lands so difficult. It removes the arbitrary limitation that allows firearms to be transported across national parks but not bows. It codifies that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the ability to regulate ammo and fishing tackles, leaving that authority to state fish and game agencies and the Fish and Wildlife Service where it has always resided. And it requires that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars be made available to secure access to existing federal public lands that have restricted access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational uses.
We must ensure that the lands we have available for public use are open to the American citizens they are meant to benefit.
As generations of Americans know, our nation has no greater resource than our natural treasures. If we don’t keep them open for everyone to enjoy, we risk having a generation that doesn’t appreciate how precious they are and the importance of good stewardship.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator from Ohio.