Two Major Congressional Bills to Benefit Hunting and Wildlife Conservation

Two Major Congressional Bills to Benefit Hunting and Wildlife Conservation

The NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website works to share the news on issues impacting the future of hunters, hunting and wildlife conservation. At this moment there are two bills working their way through Congress that you should be aware of if you have not yet heard the news.

The Great American Outdoors Act—Set for a House Vote Tomorrow, July 22
First up, in June the United States Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA)—S. 3422—which represents a tremendous commitment to both increasing public access to federal lands and to furthering wildlife conservation. Introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the bill passed in the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 73 to 25. The companion bill in the House of Representatives, introduced by Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), is now set for a vote on Wednesday, July 22. As one of the largest ever public lands funding packages to receive an up-or-down vote in Congress, if passed as expected, the bill will head to President Donald J. Trump’s desk to be signed into law and will be touted by numerous hunter-backed conservation and environmental groups as the greatest bill in decades.

As reported by numerous groups pushing for this bill, GAOA will provide $9.5 billion over the next five years to address the crumbling infrastructure on America's public lands and waters. While the National Park Service will receive $6.5 billion in funding, another $3 billion will be secured to repair and maintain public land infrastructure overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which provide critically important recreational opportunities for America's sportsmen and women.

In addition to being declared a great wildlife conservation achievement, GAOA will serve as an economic lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities, particularly those hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding for the maintenance backlog alone potentially is estimated to create 100,000 employment opportunities.

The inclusion of funding specifically for BLM, USFWS and USFS lands and waters will go far to ensuring that Americans can access critically important hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities. In sharing a few facts, more than 246 million acres, or 99 percent of BLM lands, are open to hunting and fishing while the USFS reports that 99 percent of the 193 million acres it administers are open to hunting. The same percentage of its administered rivers, streams and lakes are open to angling.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
Following up bipartisan support for GAOA, attention turned to efforts to secure House passage of a second bill to benefit hunting and wildlife conservation—the bipartisan Recovering America's Wildlife Act (RAWA)—as part of the larger H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. Already passed by the House, RAWA is said to represent the most significant investment in state and tribal fish and wildlife conservation in 20-plus years. If passed by the Senate, H.R. 2 also will go to President Trump for his signature and become law.

RAWA was introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). A letter was signed by more than 250 of the nation's top conservation organizations in support of advancing it in part to help stimulate the economy. The bill would amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to direct the Department of the Treasury to transfer revenues from energy and mineral development on federal lands totaling $1.3 billion to the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Subaccount of the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Fund. RAWA funds would strengthen state wildlife agencies’ ability to conduct proactive conservation efforts by providing financial assistance to fully implement their congressionally mandated State Wildlife Action Plans.

RAWA was adopted as part of H.R. 2 on a voice vote, a sign of the strong bipartisan support for this legislation. This achievement marks a historic step to providing nearly $1.4 billion in funding for nearly 12,000 at-risk species.

Be sure to check with the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website for updates on both bills and on news regarding the issues impacting the future of hunters, hunting and wildlife conservation.

About the Author contributor Brian McCombie is a field editor for the NRA's American Hunter and writes about firearms and gear for the NRA's Shooting Illustrated website. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Brian likes hunting hogs, shooting 1911s chambered in 10 mm and .45 ACP, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with his two cats, Peanut Morgan and Simon.