Senate committee backs Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill promoting greater public access for recreational fishing, hunting and target shooting on federal lands moved forward on Nov. 19 as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee supported the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015.

Senate Bill 556 (S. 556) would require federal land managers to factor opportunities for recreational fishing and other outdoor sports into their respective management plans. The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service would be required to keep federal lands open for recreational fishing activities, according to the legislation.

Public access to recreational fishing areas on federal land could only be shut down in an emergency, with proper public notice, or in consultation with state agencies such as California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), with Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), introduced S. 556 in February; the bill would also reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act.

“My Sportsmen’s Act declares that fishermen, hunters, recreational shooters and other outdoor enthusiasts deserve greater access to federal land, and it instructs federal agencies to facilitate the expansion of that access,” Murkowski said. “Our public lands should be open unless closed, not closed until opened or closed by bureaucratic inertia.”

The bill, if approved, could expand recreational fishing opportunities on federal lands, establish an “open until closed” national standard to facilitate public access and require agencies to justify closures.

S. 556 still requires full votes by both houses of Congress before being forwarded to the president’s desk for signature or veto.

Visit wildlife.ca.gov/lands to find out about state and federal lands within California.

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