Newhouse Applauds House Passage of Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) released the following statement after voting in support of House passage of H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which is a compilation of several bills that would improve federal land management and protect public access and opportunities for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. An amendment included in the SHARE Act by Rep. Newhouse requires the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to publish a notice in the Federal Register, along with a justification, for the closure of any public road on Forest System lands. The SHARE Act would also protect Second Amendment rights and the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle.
“I am proud to join my colleagues in approving this commonsense legislation to protect access to public lands and improve transparency,” said Rep. Newhouse. “These lands belong to the people, and taxpayers should have the opportunity to enjoy the land their tax dollars support. This legislation also improves federal land management by streamlining the sale of federal lands and requiring the U.S. Forest Service to provide justification whenever any public road is closed. No bureaucrat should arbitrarily block access to public roads. Federal agencies must be held accountable to notify the public and justify any road closures that have an outsize impact on local communities, residents, and recreational groups who rely on access to those roads.”
“Mr. Speaker, the SHARE Act is an important bipartisan package of proposals that will promote greater opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation, as well as, safeguard the rights of hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters. While similar bills have passed the House in the past two Congresses, the Senate has failed to adopt them, making this legislation long overdue. This is especially true when considering the current Administration’s ongoing assault on the Second Amendment as well as their restrictions on access to federal land. This includes restricting hunting and shooting on federal lands, where many people go to participate in these time-honored, American activities.
“The Congressional Sportsmen Foundation recently stated that roughly 37 million American sportsmen and women spend over $90 billion annually on outdoor sport activities – highlighting the important economic impact this legislation will have on small businesses across the country that comprise our recreational industries.
“Mr. Speaker, these outdoor activities are deeply ingrained in America’s heritage and culture, with the values they instill passed down from generation to generation. In fact, according to a 2013 Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation report, hunting, fishing, and shooting are growing in popularity throughout the country, with almost 40 million people over the age of 16 hunting or fishing in the United States. However, over the past seven years we have seen the federal government continually find ways to block law-abiding Americans from exercising this most fundamental right.
“People all across my state of Central Washington are avid hunters, anglers, and outdoorsmen. Many Americans, especially in the West, look to our vast federal lands to hunt, and to fish, and to shoot. Unfortunately, over the past few years we have seen federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management prevent or impede access to federal lands, which should otherwise be available for these purposes. Lack of access to acceptable areas to participate in these activities is often one of the main reasons why sportsmen and women stop participating in these traditional American pastimes. Ensuring the public has reliable access to our nation’s federal lands must remain a priority for this Congress.
“Mr. Speaker, we should be fostering and growing participation in outdoor sporting activities – rather than trying to create regulatory barriers that drive Americans away from them – which instill important lifelong values and principles. These include responsibility, firearm safety, and conservation, as well as patience, discipline, respect for wildlife, and most of all an appreciation of our country’s rich natural heritage and beautiful national parks, forests, and vast wilderness areas.
“H.R. 2406 is critical to protecting our way of life and ensuring all Americans have the ability to enjoy outdoor recreation and develop a profound appreciation for our country’s marvelous natural landscapes. This legislation is comprised of a number of provisions that will help provide future generations of Americans with access to our country’s federal lands for outdoor recreation, sport shooting, hunting, and fishing. The measure will also reaffirm the Second Amendment rights of Americans to lawfully carry firearms on federal lands. Additionally, it will help prevent federal overreach, eliminate regulatory impediments, and protect against the promulgation of new, onerous regulations that impede access or restrict lawful activities on federal lands. Sportsmen are natural stewards of public lands and greatly contribute to habitat and wildlife conservation, so I find it difficult to understand the rationale behind many of these federal decisions.
“Mr. Speaker, the SHARE Act also includes legislation I introduced, the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, or FLTFA, which authorizes BLM to sell surplus federal lands to states, localities, or private entities that can be put then to economically-beneficial use. Since its initial enactment, the FLTFA reduced federal land ownership by more than 9,000 acres over the course of a decade, while also enhancing access for hunting, fishing, and shooting on these federal lands. This critical program brings a commonsense approach to land transactions and helps streamline land ownership patterns – all without spending taxpayer funds or adding to the surplus of federally-owned property.
“Additionally, the bill includes the Recreational Lands Self-Defense Act, legislation that protects the ability of gun owners to exercise their Second Amendment rights when they are legally camping, hunting, and/or fishing on property owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Like many in Central Washington, I grew up responsibly exercising the right to bear arms, and I am a longstanding advocate for the protection of those rights, which is why I was proud to cosponsor this bill.
“In my district, access to federal lands is of paramount importance, and the SHARE Act will ensure that sportsmen, outdoorsmen, and all Americans wishing to enjoy our treasured federal parks and forests have the ability to do so. For this reason I have also introduced an amendment to the SHARE Act that would require the U.S. Forest Service to publish a notice in the Federal Register, along with a justification, for the closure of any public road in our forests. In Central Washington and across the country, the Forest Service has closed public roads with no prior notification – preventing access to public areas in our region’s National Forests. Often these blocked roadways have been in use for decades and many locals residents rely on them for both every day activities, as well as for recreational purposes. The first indication of a closure should not come when an individual is faced with an impassable roadway, but rather through adequate public notice from the Forest Service, which my amendment would provide. Our country has a deep and longstanding tradition of using federal land for outdoor and recreational activities – and protecting the ability of Americans to use our abundant federal lands for these purposes must remain one of our top priorities in Congress, which is why I am committed to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to advance this much-needed legislation.
“Mr. Speaker, for generations Americans have passed down these values to their children and to their grandchildren, which have deeply engrained hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting in America’s heritage and cultural fabric. As I said, growing up in Central Washington I experienced the importance of these values firsthand and they continue to play an important role in my life to this very day. The rule we consider here today provides for consideration of legislation that will protect these values, increase opportunities for hunters, anglers, and shooters, and ensure that future generations of Americans have equal opportunity to access and enjoy our nation’s vast public lands. This is a good, straightforward rule, allowing for the consideration of a critically important measure. I support the Rule’s adoption and I urge my colleagues to support the Rule as well as the underlying bill.”