Rep. Kristi Noem voted with the House GOP majority last Tuesday in favor of HR 4089, the Sportsmen's Heritage Act, also known as the Recreational Shooting Protection Act. The bill purports to protect hunters' rights to enjoy the chase on federal lands like Bureau of Land Management rangeland and areas of the Black Hills under control of the U.S. Forest Service.
Various sportsmen expressed concern that the bill as introduced would have allowed increased use of motorized vehicles, roadbuilding, and even mineral exploration on federal lands... none of which activities seem to have much to do with our hunting heritage. Even Gordon Howie would agree that ATVs can create a heck of a mess. House Amendment 1005 appears to have clarified that HR 4089 will not open the door to motorized recreation or mineral extraction.
However, another provision of the Sportsmen's Heritage Act includes a typical short-sighted dig at the Environmental Protection Agency. Rep. Noem and her colleagues want to block the EPA from regulating the use of lead ammunition and sinkers on federal land.
Some hunters and anglers prefer lead because it's cheaper, and dismiss scientific warnings about its toxicity. But aside from the potential health effects on sportsmen and women themselves, the lead also poses a risk to wildlife — and not just the ones being hunted. An array of studies have shown lead moving through the environment, often when bullet fragments or lost fishing sinkers are ingested by birds such as condors, turkey vultures, loons and bald eagles. One 2006 study found that lead bullet fragments in ground squirrels were poisoning hawks. According to the CBD, lead sickens and kills "more than 75 species of birds and nearly 50 mammals" [Russell McLendon, "U.S. House OKs 'Sportmen's Heritage Act'," Mother Nature Network, 2012.04.21 ].
Apparently in Kristi's mind, protecting our "heritage" means protecting toxic practices from the past.
I'm fine with hunting, and I'm fine with allowing all citizens to enjoy the land we hold in public trust. But we should keep those lands open in ways that protect their resources, not pollute them. As the Sportsmen's Heritage Act heads to the Senate, contact Senators Thune and Johnson and encourage them to remove the anti-EPA and anti-wildlife rhetoric from this bill so it can serve the interests of hunters and the environment alike.