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Important Legislation Introduced to Increase Recreational Fishing and Hunting Access on Public Lands

American Sportfishing Association Mary Jane Williamson, Communications Director, 703-519-9691, x227
Alexandria, VA – September 6, 2011 – The sportfishing industry lauds the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act, introduced by Representatives Dan Benishek (R-MI) and Dan Boren (D-OK), that will ensure that recreational fishing, hunting and shooting sports are supported as public activities on federal lands. The two members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus introduced the Act on Friday, September 2, 2011. This bipartisan legislation directs federal land management agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to apply the multi-use mandates in their management plans to support public access to our nation’s public lands.

"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 (ASA) Vice President Gordon Robertson. "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."

A recent Congressional report concluded that more than 35 million acres of land owned by the USFS and BLM have inadequate access for sportsmen and women. With respect to the agencies’ land management plans, this legislation directs managers to facilitate recreational fishing and hunting on public lands and waters. Additionally, the bill directs managers to evaluate how traditional outdoor activities will be impacted by the implementation of new regulations, management plans or land use initiatives.

"Recreation is the single largest economic output of national forests and grasslands, with 46.5 million anglers spending over $1.2 billion annually to enjoy recreational fishing on USFS lands," commented Robertson. "It is astounding that with such high demand, access is still a barrier for millions of anglers. The Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act directs the USFS and BLM managers to not only promote recreational fishing and hunting access, but to further take advantage of one of the biggest economic drivers for the agencies and the rural communities near their lands."

While the bill does not directly open federal land to recreational fishing and hunting, by directing managers to operate federal lands as "open-until-closed," overall access will increase significantly. Robertson concluded, "This legislation will encourage recreational fishing, hunting and the shooting sports on public lands and waters and increase participation in some of our nation’s most cherished pastimes."

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