Manchin Applauds Bipartisan Passage of Sportsmen's Act of 2015
Legislation will increase public lands access for sportsmen and promote West Virginia’s outdoor recreation economy
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, today applauded the bipartisan passage of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015. The legislation will enhance hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities by increasing access to federal lands. It also includes the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The bill passed the ENR Committee by a voice vote.
“As a lifelong, avid sportsman, I know firsthand that our hunting, fishing and outdoor heritage is so important to who we are as West Virginians and as Americans,” Senator Manchin said. “In West Virginia, it’s a family affair and an opportunity to pass along, from one generation to another, a deep and lasting appreciation for all the outdoors have to offer. I believe that we should protect these traditions that help define who we are. This bipartisan bill will boost West Virginia’s economy while expanding hunting and fishing rights and allowing people a greater ability to enjoy the outdoors.”
To review a section-by-section of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, please click here.
Senator Manchin delivered remarks at the ENR Committee hearing on the bill. For a video of his remarks, please click here.
Senator Manchin’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
As an avid sportsman, I believe that hunting and fishing are an integral part of the American culture and a powerful force of good protecting and preserving the natural world around us.
In West Virginia, it’s a family affair and an opportunity to pass along – from one generation to another – a deep and lasting appreciation for all the outdoors have to offer.
One of my top priorities is to make sure that the people I represent can carry on that tradition by ensuring they have access to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on our nation’s public lands.
In my home state, we have more than 1.6 million acres of public land open to hunting with 28 shooting ranges on these lands.
We have a year-round fishing season, with more than 20,000 miles of streams and more than 100 public fishing lakes.
But this is about more than heritage and family tradition – hunting and fishing are big business in the Mountain State.
In 2011 alone, sportsmen and women spent $870 million on hunting and fishing in West Virginia and paid $81 million in state and local taxes.
Title II of this bill establishes an important precedent that seems pretty common sense to me – Federal land should be open to hunting and fishing, within existing laws, unless there is a reason for it not to be.
Nothing in the bill opens any sensitive areas that are already closed to these activities.
It merely establishes the precedent that our public lands should be open to the public so that people can enjoy them.
I think it’s a shame that we all too often get caught up in debates between environmentalists and sportsmen – both of whom want to preserve and protect the great outdoors.
Gale Norton, Secretary of the Department of the Interior under President George W. Bush, once said:
“Dating back to Teddy Roosevelt, hunters have been the pillar of conservation in America, doing more than anyone to conserve wildlife and its habitat.”
I’m a firm believer that introducing someone to the great outdoors through hunting and fishing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to show them why conservation matters.
I was also very pleased to see that the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was included in this bill.
In West Virginia, LWCF has helped maintain and expand access to some of our State’s natural treasures for the benefit of all.
Access projects funded by LWCF, in places like the Monongahela National Forest, Canaan Valley, and the Gauley River, not only keep public lands public for sportsmen, but also promote West Virginia’s thriving and growing outdoor recreation economy.
A Section 6 habitat grant was the centerpiece of a project up in Cheat Canyon that leveraged state, local, and private funds to protect another incredible river that provides outdoor recreation in the northern part of the state.
A different type of grant protected key battlefield areas around Harper’s Ferry last year.
The permanent reauthorization of the LWCF is another one of my top priorities, and I commend my colleagues for working together, across partisan lines, to include it in this bill.
For the past two Congresses, we have tried and failed to pass a Sportsmen’s package through the Senate despite strong bipartisan support.
I commend Senator Murkowski and Senator Heinrich for their leadership on the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act this Congress, and I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this bill.
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