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Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act

Congressman McClintock is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.  The subcommittee held a legislative hearing on September 12, 2017 on H.R. 3668, the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2017” (“Share Act”).  Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement:

The Share Act combines provisions from previous legislation passed by the House in the 112th, 113th and 114th congresses.  Its purpose is to increase opportunities for hunters, recreational shooters, and anglers; eliminate regulatory impediments; safeguard against new regulations that impede outdoor sporting activities; and protect Second Amendment rights.

Outdoor sporting activities, including hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, are deeply engrained in the fabric of America’s culture and heritage. Values of personal responsibility, resource management, conservation and outdoor recreation instilled by these activities are passed down from generation to generation and play a significant role in the lives of millions of Americans. Hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting are growing in popularity.  In 2011, over 37 million people over the age of 16 hunted or fished across the country.  And every year sportsmen and women contribute around $90 billion to the U.S. economy.

Much of America’s outdoor sporting activity occurs on our public lands; lands that we have set aside for the express purpose of “public use, resort and recreation,” in the words of the original Yosemite charter.  Sadly, over the last several decades, federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have sought to prevent or impede access to public lands for these traditional outdoor sporting purposes.

One of the most commonly cited reasons by Americans who have given up on these recreational pursuits on public lands is ease of access.  People don’t go where they’re not wanted, not allowed, or legally jeopardized by a tangle of intricate rules and jurisdictions.

Congress represents the people and under our Constitution is given exclusive jurisdiction over the people’s lands.  Yet these policies – so antithetical to the purpose of our public lands – have been made not by Congress, but by bureaucrats who seek to replace the doctrine of “use, resort and recreation” with an elitist and restrictive policy of “look, but don’t touch.”

The Federal Lands Sub-committee of the House has for the last six years sought to restore public access to public lands, and the SHARE Act is a very important part of that policy.

One of the key provisions of this bill, the “Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act”, begins to rein in these bureaucratic abuses, by declaring our public lands open to hunting and fishing unless the agency has specific reasons to exclude these activities from individual tracts of land.

It takes care not to prioritize hunting and fishing over other traditional public uses of public land but rather to maintain them within the multitude of outdoor recreational pursuits the public enjoys.  It also respects the cooperative relationship we have sought with local communities affected by federal ownership.  For example, another provision in the bill will improve inter-governmental coordination to create and maintain recreational shooting ranges on public lands and respect agreements with tribal jurisdictions.

The bill also protects Second Amendment rights and the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle.  It defends law-abiding citizens’ constitutional right to carry arms on lands owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. It assures that firearms can be carried across state lines under uniform rules without fear of legal jeopardy.  It also removes ATF’s authority to use the “sporting purposes” clauses in federal law in ways that could undermine the core purpose of the Second Amendment. The bill also ensures that hunters are not burdened by outdated laws preventing bows and crossbows from being transported across National Parks.

The bill also removes fire suppressors from regulation under the National Firearms Act, replacing the federal transfer process with a National Instant Criminal Background Check. Suppressors are important devices to reduce hearing damage for shooters – my father suffered from it — as well as to reduce noise at shooting ranges located near residential areas.   In my district, this has been a major complaint of residents near a recently-opened outdoor shooting range in Shingle Springs.

The early kings of England declared a third of the public lands off limits to commoners and made them the exclusive preserves of the elites of the royal court.  The English people resented this so greatly that they devoted no fewer than five clauses of the Magna Carta for redress. Our forbearers created the American public lands on precisely the opposite premise: that EVERY American has the right to enjoy these lands in all the traditional pursuits – and hunting and fishing are indisputably the oldest of them.  Yes, they are absolutely essential to manage wildlife populations.  Yes, they contribute greatly to our economy.  Yes, they instill critical moral values.  But the most important reason is that they are the birthright of every American, confirmed by the original charters that established our public lands.

It is our responsibility to preserve and protect that right and this bill takes us a long way to restoring it.