Sportsmen’s Heritage Act Aims to Gun Down Wildlife Protection on Public Lands

Congress is currently considering legislation that would, if enacted, launch a broad assault on America's wildlife and public lands. The Sportsmen's Heritage Act of 2012 (H.R. 4089), which passed the US House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate, proposes to weaken important protections afforded by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Endangered Species Act, Wilderness Act, and other landmark environmental and public health laws.

Particularly alarming are provisions that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the use of lead shot despite its serious adverse impacts on humans, animals and the environment; shield all hunting activities from scrutiny under the National Environmental Policy Act; require that all Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, as well as national monuments, be open by default to hunting unless explicitly closed; and prohibit federal agencies from requiring hunters to obtain permits or licenses to hunt on federal lands, with very limited exception.

The bill goes so far as to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to permit importation of polar bear carcasses taken before the species was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2008—including those taken from unapproved populations or killed despite multiple warnings of an imminent ban on imports. This legislation—unprecedented in its sweeping attack on animals and the environment—would also cost taxpayers an estimated $12 million between 2013 and 2016.

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