US Congress urged to pass Sportsmen's Act that would boost recreation, protect habitat, wetlands; bill would reauthorize FLTFA 'land-for-land' program, allowing BLM to sell land for timber and agricultural production, and other uses

ARLINGTON, Virginia , December 7, 2012 (press release) – The Sportsmen’s Act should have been on its way to the President by now, but efforts were derailed last week in the United States Senate. Sportsmen and conservation groups continue to press the Senate and House of Representatives to pass the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S. 3525; introduced by Senator Tester), a bill that will enhance hunting, fishing and recreation opportunities across the nation, while also protecting critical wildlife habitat and wetlands.

“The Conservation Fund implores Congress to pass this significant bill for conservation,” said Larry Selzer, President and CEO of The Conservation Fund. “The Sportsmen’s Act will strengthen and preserve America’s outdoor legacy. Swift passage will ensure these critical programs move forward, for the benefit of the public and future generations. Our nation depends on conservation for clean water, recreational opportunities, habitat protection and other important goals that this bill will advance.”

Wildlife-associated recreation, like hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching, is enjoyed by 38 percent of all Americans 16 years and older—approximately 90 million people—who spent $145 billion in 2011, according to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey. The Sportsmen’s Act will help continue the programs that directly benefit wildlife-associated recreation, including the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization (FLTFA), the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (Duck Stamps) and other provisions.

FLTFA is a successful “land-for-land” program for the West that expired in 2011. If reauthorized, the program will allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell federal land deemed disposable to land owners, counties, businesses and other private interests for ranching, timber and agricultural production, and community development projects, among other uses. The proceeds from the BLM sales can be used in twelve western states by four federal agencies to acquire high priority, critical lands from willing sellers to protect wildlife values and recreational access for hunting and fishing. Since established in 2000, FLTFA has helped protect 39 important sites in 10 states, including big game habitat at Elk Springs Area of Critical Environmental Concern in New Mexico and over a mile of river frontage access for trout fishing at the North Platte River Special Recreation Management Area in Wyoming.

The NAWCA and Duck Stamps programs also fund crucial conservation areas across the nation that protect habitat and provide sportsmen’s access, often leveraged by other private and public funds. Over the last twenty years, more than $1.1 billion of NAWCA funds matched by $2.32 billion have completed 2,067 projects; and Duck Stamps funds—comprised largely of the proceeds from the sale of migratory bird hunting licenses—have been used for over 80 years to protect important migratory bird habitat. These programs and the other provisions in the Act will collectively help protect and restore millions of acres of wetlands and other wildlife habitat and assist private landowners with conservation solutions for their properties.

One example of the importance of conservation funding is in Louisiana, where over the last decade, through a partnership between The Conservation Fund and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, NAWCA has directly protected more than 19,000 acres of coastal wetlands within the Greater New Orleans area. These critical grants have leveraged over $22 million in other funding for this vital Louisiana landscape, providing permanent outdoor recreation opportunities to all of the citizens of Louisiana (aka “Sportsman’s Paradise”) and the country.

Supported by a broad range of partners, the Sportsmen’s Act represents a significant commitment to sportsmen’s access, conservation, wildlife habitat protection, and other important goals.

About The Conservation Fund

At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

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