October 4, 2017
Hunting, Fishing, and Related Issues in the 115 Congress
Sportsmen’s and sportswomen’s issues, including hunting,
fishing, recreational shooting, and other wildlife-associated
activities, are regular matters of interest for Congress,
including in the 115th Congress. At issue for Congress is
increasing access to federal lands and waters, balancing
recreational uses and conservation, and addressing federal
land management plans. A review of natural resource
provisions within selected sportsmen’s bills in the 115th
Congress is presented here.
Millions of individuals participate in hunting, fishing, and
wildlife-related activities each year in the United States,
contributing billions of dollars to the economy. Every five
years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsors a
national survey to assess fishing, hunting, and wildlifeassociated recreation. The most recent survey was for 2016;
it added data for two new categories of activities: target
shooting and archery (Figure 1).
Figure 1. 2016 Survey Results: Hunting, Fishing, and
managed by the U.S. Forest Service (FS) and the Bureau of
Land Management (BLM) to be open to hunting, fishing,
and recreational shooting unless specifically closed by the
respective managing agency for a justifiable reason and
following the closure procedures outlined in the bill. This
“open unless closed” provision would apply only to land
open to these activities as of the date of enactment, but it
would prevent future closures unless the required
justifications and procedures are met. Additional sections
would amend the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act
(FLTFA; 43 U.S.C. §2301 et seq.) and Pittman-Robertson
Wildlife Restoration Act (16 U.S.C. §669 et seq.); authorize
the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council
Advisory Committee; revise fees for commercial filming on
federal lands; and address the transport of bows and the use
of volunteers for wildlife management in National Parks.
Division B (Natural Resources) of S. 1460, the Energy and
Natural Resources Act of 2017, contains sections similar to
those in S. 733, and would also reauthorize the North
American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA; 16 U.S.C.
§4401 et seq.); prohibit regulation of fishing tackle based
on lead content; and bar regulation of the lawful possession
of a firearm at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
water resource development projects.
House of Representatives
H.R. 3668, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational
Enhancement (SHARE) Act, was reported by the Natural
Resources Committee on September 18, 2017 (H.Rept. 115314).
Source: CRS, with data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2016
National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation
Notes: Data reflect number of participating Americans aged 16 and
older. Data for target shooting and archery are for 2015.
Multiple sportsmen-related bills have been introduced in
the 115th Congress, including S. 733 and H.R. 3668, as well
as Division B of S. 1460. See Table 1 for a list of issues
covered in these bills.
S. 733, the Sportsmen’s Act, was reported by the
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on June 22,
2017 (S.Rept. 115-116). S. 733 would require federal land
Like S. 733 and S. 1460, H.R. 3668 would—with some
differences in specific actions—require FS and BLM lands
to be managed as open unless they are specifically closed;
amend FLTFA, Pittman-Robertson, and NAWCA; address
commercial filming fees; prohibit regulation of lead in
fishing tackle; bar regulation of firearms at USACE water
resource development projects; and allow the transport of
bows and volunteers in National Parks. In addition, H.R.
3668 would clarify how baiting is defined on agricultural
lands for migratory gamebirds; reissue final rules for certain
gray wolf populations; permit the importation of legally
obtained polar bear trophies into the U.S.; enhance state
control over certain fisheries; and modify the regulation of
firearms, ammunition, and silencers; among other actions.
Issues for Congress
Some proponents of sportsmen-related legislation believe
that there should be more opportunities for hunting, fishing,
and related recreation on federal lands and waters and that it
is important to protect access to sportsmen’s recreational
opportunities in law. Others argue that these bills appear to
disregard the reality that many federal lands are already
managed for multiple-use purposes and worry that some
Hunting, Fishing, and Related Issues in the 115th Congress
provisions could weaken environmental protections and
marginalize science-based management, such as through
the prohibition of regulating lead in fishing tackle.
Supporters and opponents of these bills have largely agreed
with the general sentiment of balancing federal land
management in a way that accommodates recreational
activities of all kinds, while also conserving and protecting
natural resources. However, they have disagreed on the
appropriate legislative approach to achieve this goal.
Related Administrative Actions
Sportsmen’s issues have also been addressed in
administrative actions under President Trump. For example,
then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order
3356, “Hunting, Fishing, Recreational Shooting, and
Wildlife Conservation Opportunities and Coordination with
States, Tribes, and Territories,” on September 15, 2017. For
more information, see CRS Insight IN10794, Department of
the Interior Secretarial Order 3356.
Table 1. Issue by Title/Section in H.R. 3668, As Reported, S. 733, As Reported, and S. 1460, As Introduced
Declaration of national policy regarding hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting
Lead in fishing tackle
Amendments to Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act (16 U.S.C. §669 et seq.)
Firearms at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water resources development projects
Opening, closing, and access to federal lands and waters for hunting, fishing, and
No priority for hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting
Volunteer hunters in wildlife management
Clarifying agricultural practices and baiting in migratory game bird hunting
Transporting bows across National Park Service lands
Respect for treaties and rights
State approval for fishing restriction within National Park Service or Office of National
Marine Sanctuary managed waters
Amendments to the Equal Access to Justice Act (5 U.S.C. §504; 28 U.S.C. §2412)
Access to federal lands for good Samaritan search and recovery
Interstate transportation of firearms and ammunition
Importation of polar bear trophies hunted legally in Canada before specified date
Amendments to North American Wetlands Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. §4401 et seq.)
Gray wolves final rule reissuance
Hearing protection (silencers)
Consideration of ammunition and firearms classification
Amendments to Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (43 U.S.C. §2301 et seq.)
Commercial filming and photography on federal lands
Respect for state wildlife management authority
Bison management in the Grand Canyon
Recreation permits for guides and outfitters
Hunting and fishing within certain National Forests
Wildlife Hunting and Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee authorization
Source: CRS, with information from H.R. 3668, S. 733, and S. 1460.
Note: Issue area is for categorization purposes only; language may differ between bills.
R. Eliot Crafton, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
Hunting, Fishing, and Related Issues in the 115th Congress
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan shared staff to
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