Sportsmen's bill with wide-ranging support hits snag in Congress

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 1, 2012 - 5:25 PM

The compilation of 17 bills that would, among other things, improve wildlife habitat fell victim to the "political maelstrom."

A massive bill that would improve wildlife habitat, expand access to federal lands for hunters and anglers, establish more public shooting ranges and boost the cost of the federal duck stamp -- an increase hunters have sought for years -- was shot down in the U.S. Senate last week.

Now its fate in the lame-duck Congress is uncertain.

Ironically, the wide-ranging bill called the Sportsmen's Act -- a compilation of 17 bills -- has widespread support among Democrats and Republicans, as well as virtually all major wildlife, conservation and gun organizations, including the NRA, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited.

It has been called one of the most important hunting and fishing bills in a generation.

But despite its broad support, Republicans killed the bill, at least temporarily, in a political and procedural clash with Democrats and the Obama administration over the current fiscal crisis.

"It got caught up in the political maelstrom,'' said Gary Taylor, Ducks Unlimited's government affairs director. "The wide-ranging support is unprecedented, and it's a voice that Congress should pay attention to. Conservation should be a bipartisan issue.''

In a procedural 50-44 vote along party lines, the measure was killed -- stunning supporters. It needed 60 votes. In an earlier vote it passed 92-5. Minnesota Sens. Al Frankin and Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats, voted in favor.

Republicans said they voted against the measure because the proposed $10 increase to the $15 federal duck stamp would mean $132 million in new spending in the next decade -- which they said would violate the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Supporters argued the bill raised money for those provisions, and that the increase, long supported by Ducks Unlimited and other conservation groups, wasn't a tax. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would reduce the deficit by $5 million over the next decade.

"It is ironic and unfortunate,'' Taylor said. "The stamp is a user fee requested in the 1930s by hunters to pay for wetlands and waterfowl conservation. This is not taxpayer dollars, rather hunters and conservationists reaching into their own pockets to support conservation.''

Senate staffers said Friday the bill's author, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., was working with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to salvage the bill. They said Tester had offered to add a "sodsaver'' amendment to the bill, which would reduce crop insurance and other subsidies to farmers when they plow native grasslands for crops. It would save about $175 million and would offset the duck stamp expenditures.

Even if the Senate approves the bill, it also would have to pass the House.

"The biggest thing working against us is the clock,'' Taylor said. Congress is scheduled to adjourn Dec. 14.

"This is one of the most significant acts for sportsmen in the last 20 years,'' said Vaughn Collins, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership government affairs director. "If it goes down in flames, it will be an embarrassment coming off an election in which the American people said they want cooperation.''

The bill is considered so important that Field & Stream and Outdoor Life announced their support -- one of the few times in their 100-plus-year history they have endorsed legislation.

"This is not the time to be divisive or partisan, because this is likely the most important piece of hunting and fishing legislation of our generation," said Anthony Licata, editorial director.

Among the bill's provisions:

• Provide hunters, anglers and others access to 35 million acres of public land by buying easements, or lands, from willing sellers, using money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, gained from oil and gas drilling fees.

• Reauthorize for five years the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which provides matching grants to protect waterfowl and other wildlife habitat. Over the past 20 years, it has conserved 26 million acres and leveraged almost $3 for every federal dollar allocated. More than $30 million has been spent in Minnesota.

• Authorize the Interior secretary to boost the price of the federal Duck Stamp beginning in 2013. It would be likely to increase by $10. The cost of the stamp, now $15, hasn't been increased since 1991. Revenue buys wetland habitat.

• Allow federal duck stamps to be issued electronically by all states.

• Allow 41 stored polar bears killed in Canada before the Fish and Wildlife Service designated them as threatened in 2008 to be imported to the United States.

• Exclude lead ammunition and fishing tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act, leaving decisions about whether to ban or restrict it to states and the Fish and Wildlife Service. This and the polar bear issue are the most controversial items.

Those provisions caused Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to vote against the measure, the only Democrat who did. Anti-hunting groups also oppose the lead exemption.

Supporters argue, meanwhile, the provision wouldn't change much.

• Amend the Pittman-Robertson Act to provide more funding to states to create and maintain shooting ranges.

• Allow bows to be transported across national parks. Currently, firearms can be legally transported through these areas, but not bows, posing a practical problem for bow hunters who must cross national parks to access other lands.

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com Twitter: @dougsmithstrib

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto 0 Top 1st Inning
NY Yankees 0
Washington 0 Top 1st Inning
Miami 0
NY Mets - J. deGrom 12:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Boston - J. Kelly 12:35 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 12:35 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Chicago WSox - J. Danks 12:40 PM
Tampa Bay - N. Karns
Cleveland - C. Kluber 1:10 PM
Minnesota - A. Swarzak
Detroit - R. Porcello 1:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
Seattle - H. Iwakuma 1:10 PM
Houston - C. McHugh
Los Angeles - J. Wright 1:20 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner
Texas - N. Tepesch 2:35 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 3:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong 3:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Arizona - W. Miley 3:10 PM
Colorado - C. Bergman
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 7 1st Qtr 9:45
Buffalo 0
Dallas 0 1st Qtr 6:10
St. Louis 7
Washington 7 1st Qtr 8:42
Philadelphia 0
Houston 0 1st Qtr 8:10
NY Giants 0
Minnesota 0 1st Qtr 9:36
New Orleans 7
Tennessee 0 1st Qtr 7:10
Cincinnati 0
Baltimore 3 1st Qtr 9:11
Cleveland 0
Green Bay 0 1st Qtr 11:13
Detroit 7
Indianapolis 3 1st Qtr 9:30
Jacksonville 0
Oakland 0 1st Qtr 9:35
New England 0
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 12:30 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 4:00 PM
Washington
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Columbus
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Calgary
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(22) Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 2:00 PM
Toronto FC
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 0 13:06
Montreal 0
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close