WASHINGTON — A sportsmen and recreation bill approved this week by the House would allow greater access for hunting and fishing on federal lands and block the Environmental Protection Agency from banning the use of lead in ammunition and tackle gear.
The measure passed on a bipartisan vote of 268 to 154, and although 41 Democrats sided with Republicans the bill is expected to face tough opposition in the Senate.
Rep. Doc Hastings, Washington state Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the legislation is needed to protect long-standing American traditions from “bureaucratic threats.
“This legislation ensures that Americans’ ability to fish and hunt will not be arbitrarily subject to limitation by the whim of federal bureaucrats,” Hastings said.
“It also makes clear that public lands are open-until-closed to such recreational activities, and it absolutely makes clear that President Obama’s activist EPA does not have the authority to regulate ammunition and fishing tackle,” Hastings said.
The EPA is already prevented from banning lead ammunition, but Republicans say that environmental groups are trying to make an end-run around the rule and are pressuring the agency to ban the chemical in fishing components and ammunition.
Republicans said the ban would increase the cost of tackle and bullets and put an economic strain on the industry as well as sportsmen.
Democrats countered that lead is toxic to animals when game shot by hunters is instead eaten by other wildlife, and that non-toxic ammunition should be mandated.
“Condors eat dead things, it eats things killed by bullets,” said Rep. Sam Farr, California Democrat.
“Sportsmen I know don’t want to kill the wildlife by poison,” Farr said. “This is nuts. Lead from ammunition is the way you kill animals, not from being shot.”
Voting yes in the Colorado delegation were Republican Reps. Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Democratic Reps. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter. The lone Coloradan voting no was Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette.
Polis succeeded in amending the bill to allow snowmobilers continued access to national forests, in exchange for a House floor concession that “the better team” won the Super Bowl. The good-natured demand was from chairman Hastings, a Seattle Seahawks fan.
However, Republicans beat back an effort by other Democrats to amend the bill requiring federal officials to specifically take climate change into consideration when managing recreation and conservation on public lands.
“Climate change will do more to restrict hunting and fishing … than restrictions on lead shot or any of those things,” said Rep. Rush Holt, New Jersey Democrat.
Hastings opposed the amendment saying such power would be abused to limit or block access to federally managed property.
“It does not speak to climate change, but has the potential for closing our public land,” Hastings said.
The legislation is a package of eight different bills to keep public lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management open for hunting and fishing, except in cases of national security, public safety, or to comply with state and federal laws. It does not allow hunting in national parks.
The bill also allows makes federal duck stamps available for purchase online, and clarifies language to prevent anti-hunting nuisance lawsuits.
The White House says it supports some measures in the bill, including the language excluding lead from some fishing equipment, as well as the electronic sale of duck stamps.
However, the Obama administration opposes language that would allow recreation and hunting in national monuments, and wants guns banned from federal property managed as water development projects by the Army Corps of Engineers.
President Barack Obama has not committed to signing or vetoing the bill if it passes the Senate in its current form.