Loaded with legislation that would impact conservation, the bipartisan bill S.47, referred to as the Natural Resources Management Act, is scheduled for debate and a vote in the Senate next week, following the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history.
Initially introduced in 2018, S.47 was reintroduced in Congress on January 8 by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and former Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Washington). The bill includes provisions that would permanently re-authorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which sunset last September; modernize the Pittman-Robertson Act; and dedicate select lands for public use.
Created and signed into law by Congress in 1964 and enacted in 1965, LWCF used revenue ($900 million each year) from offshore oil and gas leases — not taxpayer dollars — to fund conservation efforts. In addition to permanently re-authorizing LWCF, according to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), S.47 will allocate LWCF funds “by allocating 40 percent to federal projects, 40 percent to state-level matching grants and programs like Forest Legacy and 20 percent for miscellaneous projects … that could help address maintenance backlogs.”
S.47’s update to Pittman-Robertson includes a focus on the upkeep of public shooting facilities — a welcome addition to the bill as recreational shooters represent a large segment of the gun-owning public.
Most conversations about hunting’s impact on conservation focus on the Pittman-Robertson Act. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 has become an integral component of conservation in the U.S. Better known as Pittman-Robertson, this legislation imposes an excise tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment — money that is distributed to the states, which can then spend their allotted sum on the management of wildlife and habitat, research, surveys or the acquisition or leasing of land. S.47’s update to Pittman-Robertson includes a focus on the upkeep of public shooting facilities — a welcome addition to the bill as recreational shooters represent a large segment of the gun-owning public.
Residents in Douglas County, Ore., stand to benefit from S.47’s permanent protection of 100,000 acres via the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act. Frank, a veteran of World War II, and his wife Jeanne dedicated much of their lives to preserving a small tributary to the North Umpqua River called Steamboat Creek. Under S.47, this act will ensure that their passion and dedication were not in vain.
The creation of two new Wilderness Areas, located in northern New Mexico, is also being proposed under S.47: Cerro Del Yuta Wilderness and the Rio San Antonio Wilderness, which would comprise 13,420 acres and 8,120 acres, respectively. The designation of these lands would protect a vital migration corridor for elk, antelope, bighorn sheep and other game species while also enhancing the local outdoor economy, which generates more than $173 million annually for the region, according to BHA.
These highlights represent only a fraction of the legislation proposed under S.47, which has been summarized here. A compromise struck by industry and the outdoor community, S.47 is a welcome addition in 2019.