A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House last week would potentially open additional federal land to hunting and fishing.
Introduced by Congressman Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, and Dan Boren, D-Okla., the "Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act" would require the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to provide access on federal land for hunting, trapping, fishing and recreational shooting.
"While many of these agencies are most commonly known for their timber resources and energy development, federal lands also offer tremendous recreational fishing opportunities," said American Sportfishing Association vice president Gordon Robertson, in a statement. "Unfortunately access for traditional recreational activities on these lands is limited, as is public awareness of the problem. With lack of access being one of the most common reasons keeping anglers from enjoying a day on the water, this new legislation opens an opportunity to increase sportfishing participation, not just on public lands, but nation-wide."
It is estimated there are about 35 million acres of federal land between the two departments. While hunting and fishing are already allowed on some federal lands, there have been carve-outs and restrictions to those areas open to outdoors sporting during the past several decades.
Speaking in June about the intent of the bill, Benishek said this legislation aims to open additional areas to hunters as a function of both heritage and financial gain for the towns surrounding the land.
"In Northern Michigan, hunting and fishing is more than a sport hobby -- it is a way of life," Benishek said by statement, upon introducing the bill. "My hope is that Congress will act to ensure that hunting, fishing and shooting rights are protected on federal lands for years to come."
The bill would essentially create an "open until closed" policy for sportsmen's use of federal land and would potentially block future lawsuits and environmentalist groups from restricting such access, leaving the two departments to maintain the access by law.
The bill is H.R. 2834.