DOI’s Bernhardt Puts Public Lands Bill into Action

DOI’s Bernhardt Puts Public Lands Bill into Action

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie

The day before U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Acting Secretary David Bernhardt appeared for his confirmation hearing, he signed Secretarial Order No. 3374, officially implementing the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act within the DOI. The department is touting the many benefits of the new legislation for all citizens, but as NRA-ILA Director of Conservation, Wildlife and Natural Resources Susan Recce reported on this website, with a few exceptions, there is much in the bill that hunter-conservationists can celebrate as well

The order, in accordance with the deadlines specified by the Dingell Act, sets up a task force and timeframes for moving forward on actionable steps within each DOI office or bureau. It outlines instructions for establishing plans, tracking progress and complying with budgetary guidelines through the next few years.

The DOI under former Secretary Ryan Zinke was already advancing many of the concepts passed in the Act, and Bernhardt continues to support those measures. For instance, he recently released funds for numerous projects that involve cooperation between federal, state and private land-holders to better wildlife migration routes and grazing ranges of Western big-game species.

Order No. 3374 sets up the inter-departmental infrastructure to carry out the goals of the Act. The ones of particular interest to hunters include:

  • Expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on dozens of wildlife refuges and thousands more acres of other public lands. The Dingell Act requires that public lands be open to hunting and fishing unless closed, and those closures must be for the minimal amount of time possible.
  • Allowing sportsmen to carry unarmed bows across National Park Service lands. This was finalized by the DOI in October 2018.
  • Identifying hunting and fishing opportunities on federal lands, which is something the DOI has been working on since September 2017.
  • Developing shooting ranges on public lands. Although NRA-ILA continues to advance this goal to full effect, the DOI has been allowing the Bureau of Land Management to manage appropriate public lands as target shooting ranges.

President Donald J. Trump has tapped Bernhardt to fully take on the secretary’s role. The National Rifle Association fully backs his choice. As mentioned, Bernhardt underwent his Senate confirmation hearing on March 28, so a vote is expected on his nomination later this week.

About the Author: Erin C. Healy is the associate editor of the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum. She edited a lifestyle magazine on Cape Cod for 14 years and provided marketing services for her local guntry club prior to joining BLADE magazine and serving in the U.S. Army. She's an NRA Life Member, a National Wild Turkey Federation member and sends her Jack Russell Terriers to ground as often as possible.