Senate panel approves controversial 'sportsmen's' bill
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2016 - The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has passed its version of the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act (S.659), but not without pushback from Democrats and some conservation groups.
The bill, which will be combined with a 2015 edition introduced by the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, last year, would renew wildlife conservation investments; reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and require the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to keep lands open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting.
EPW Chair Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in support of the 2016 bill last week that it “includes a number of provisions eliminating unnecessary regulation, supporting recreational sport shooting and encouraging conservation work.” His committee approved the bill Wednesday on a 12-8 vote, with Tom Carper of Delaware providing the only Democratic support.
Sportsmen's groups, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the American Sportfishing Association, have been supportive of the legislation, even though it now includes an amendment by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., that would permanently end Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes states.
Other conservation groups have voiced concerns, however.
“This is yet another special-interest driven attack on gray wolves that will lead to the vicious and cruel slaughter of thousands of these magnificent animals,” Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release.
Hartl's group also pointed to another provision in the bill that would permanently exempt lead fishing tackle from any regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
“There is no safe level of lead in the environment,” Hartl said. “This provision will mean more poisoned wildlife - hardly what real sportsmen should want to occur.”
EPW's ranking member, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a release that she would try to block the bill if the lead fishing tackle provision and a provision to waive Clean Water Act permit requirements for farmers spraying pesticides over waterways aren't removed.
“I am shocked … that following the scandal in Flint, Michigan, where children have been poisoned by lead in the drinking water, a Republican majority on the EPW Committee voted to permanently exempt lead and other contaminants in fishing tackle from any regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act,” Boxer said.
“These provisions are much more than just a poke in the eye to people, but are defiant acts toward American families who expect their country to protect them from poisons,” Boxer continued. “Unless the poison pills are dropped, I will do everything in my power to prevent this legislation from reaching the Senate floor… (and) everything I can to stop it from becoming law.”
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