Sportsmen’s Act Update

By John Stillwagon

For several years, a series of bills carrying the name “Sportsmen’s Act’ have been debated in the halls of Congress. While many of these bills had significant support, none of them were ever signed into law.

In 2016, the Sportsmen’s Act came close to being the law of the land when both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed versions of the bill. Unfortunately, the differences between the two versions were never reconciled in a conference committee so it was never signed into law.

After that disappointing result, some experts considered the Sportsmen’s Act dead. However, since then three new bills have been introduced that hit many of the main points as the original Sportsmen’s Acts.

The SHARE Act

Essentially a new version of the Sportsmen’s Act with a new name, the SHARE Act was passed by the House in 2016. Officially known as the Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act, it was reintroduced in the House on Friday, September 1, 2017 as HR 3668.

It contains a few items important to anglers including:
– Prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and the Forest Service from banning lead fishing tackle, instead allowing states to regulate the issue.
– Requiring the National Park Service to get state approval before closing waters to fishing as they did at Biscayne Bay.
– Making fishing (and hunting) a priority in federal land management planning.

The HELP for Wildlife Act

In 2017, another new version with a new name – the HELP for Wildlife Act – was introduced in the U.S. Senate as S. 1514 with strong bipartisan support.

Officially named the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act, it includes many provisions specifically for both freshwater and saltwater anglers. These include:
– Protections for traditional fishing tackle from unwarranted regulation by the EPA.
– Authorizing the National Fish Habitat Partnerships program which will conserve, restore and enhance fish habitat throughout the nation, providing better fishing opportunities.
– Provisions beneficial to the Chesapeake Bay.
– Reauthorization of important conservation programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.Simply put, this legislation will increase participation and enjoyment of our rivers, lakes and streams and improve fish habitat throughout the country.

The Sportsmen’s Act

Earlier this year, another “Sportsmen’s Act” was introduced in the U.S. Senate. Unlike the other bills, this one didn’t get a name change.This bill helps anglers at a higher and longer term level by ensuring federal lands are open to recreational fishing.

The bill states that:
– Federal departments and agencies must facilitate the expansion and enhancement of noncommercial fishing on federal land.
– Federal land must be open for noncommercial fishing unless the managing agency acts to close the lands under a specified set of procedures.

Between the three bills, many of the key points for anglers from the old Sportsmen’s Act are covered. Count on Keep America Fishing to keep you updated and in the loop regarding these two bills.