Saturday, February 27, 2016
Billy Long: I will defend our federal lands for hunters
From the day my grandpa, “Cowpaw,” took me fishing for the first time; I’ve been hooked on the outdoors. From that first trip, to the all-night bass tournament I entered at Cape Fair on Table Rock Lake at age 16, to my ice fishing trip on Lake Minnetonka a few weeks ago, I’ve been an avid fisherman my whole life. My experiences are certainly not unique to someone that’s grown up in the Ozarks. It’s second nature for me to fight in Washington for Southwest Missouri’s, and America’s, natural beauties so that they will be available for future outdoor enthusiasts.
Safari Club International presents their Federal Legislator of the Year Award to one Member of Congress each year. I was recently honored to receive this award for 2015 due to my efforts to defend the recreational hobbies and rights of America’s sportsmen and sportswomen. Not only do these hobbyists deserve their freedoms defended due to making up a major part of America’s social fabric, but because of their economic impact as well.
The most recent annual U.S. Fish & Wildlife data for Missouri found that nearly 1.3 million sportsmen and women spent $1.67 billion on their hobbies in 2011, which generated more than $400 million in overall tax revenues and supported 28,895 jobs. To put this in perspective, this is more money spent annually in Missouri than is spent on cattle – our state’s third highest grossing agricultural commodity. Additionally, Missouri’s 1.3 million sportsmen and women could fill the Cardinals, Chiefs, and Royals stadiums more than eight times over, and support more Missourian jobs than the combined employment of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Mercy Hospital – two of our state’s three largest employers.
With my vote this February, the House of Representatives passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which will enhance opportunities for these recreational hobbies and improve wildlife monitoring at the federal level. This bill to defend the rights of American sportsmen and women will remove federal roadblocks that impede their ability to hunt, fish, or shoot firearms on certain public lands.
Namely, some measures in the SHARE Act will require Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands – with the exception of National Parks and Wildlife Refuges – to accommodate recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting. In the place of outdated advisory methods, this bill establishes the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee to better inform the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture on habitat conservation, hunting, and recreational shooting trends.
The SHARE Act also permanently bans the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating ammunition and fishing tackle based on their lead contents. It will increase state level authorities for funding shooting ranges on public lands and encourages federal, state, and local government coordination to maintain them. Moreover, it also protects farmers from federal law misinterpretations and creates increased considerations for outdoor recreation activities when adding new lands to the National Wildlife Refuge System.
As shown in my support for the SHARE Act, I place a high priority on working to protect America’s wildlife and natural resources. But, we must not forget that in addition to conservation concerns, our nation’s sportsmen and women represent a very engaged and prosperous segment of the overall U.S. economy and social fabric. Going forward, I will continue defending our federal lands for present and future outdoor hobbyists’ to appreciate just as I did growing up in the Ozarks.