On Feb. 9, the Sportsmen’s Alliance submitted comments to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs seeking public clarification from the White House pertaining to President Trump’s executive actions issuing a freeze on new regulations, as well as mandating the repealing of two regulations for every new one passed.
The Sportsmen’s Alliance believes public lands should be presumed to be open to hunting, fishing, trapping and other recreational activities, unless closed for a specific and documentable reason, such as resource conservation, public safety, natural security or protection of private property rights.
Unfortunately, many federal statutes currently require that land managers take specific action to open public lands to recreational activities, and that requires agencies to adopt a regulation. The longstanding legal framework requiring that federal lands are closed until specifically opened poses challenges for public access to millions of acres of federal land.
“The Sportsmen’s Alliance is filing these comments to ensure that any efforts at regulatory reform ultimately helps hunters, anglers and other recreational users and does not inadvertently make these activities—or access to the public land on which they occur—more difficult,” said Evan Heusinkveld, Sportsmen’s Alliance president and CEO.
Perfect examples of “access or use by regulation” include the National Wildlife Refuge System and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, both of which require specific permission and regulation from governing bodies. Under the best case scenario, the expansion of hunting on the refuge system would halt, and changes to waterfowl seasons and harvests would be nearly impossible. Worst case scenarios involve complete loss of access and entire waterfowl seasons, as well as threat of lawsuits from anti-hunting organizations challenging the application of the executive actions under the presumption of closed until opened.
Indeed, this presumption of federal land being closed to activities until specifically opened has long been an issue for sportsmen, as anti-hunting organizations have used the regulatory process to object to and file lawsuits to stop the opening of public lands to hunters and trappers. The Sportsmen’s Alliance has long advocated, including in the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, that the converse is appropriate when it comes to federal public lands. We continue to urge President Trump and congressional leaders to reverse the presumption for all federal lands, making them “open until closed” for activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, horseback riding, rafting, camping and other recreational activities.
Given the promises of President Trump to sportsmen during the Presidential campaign, and the answers specifically given to the Sportsmen’s Alliance’s questions during that time, we assume that the administration’s deregulatory efforts do not intend to restrict public access and recreation. We are therefore seeking a pro-hunting clarification for federal land managers that might otherwise be very cautious in adopting new regulations, even though those rules might actually grant greater freedoms and access to sportsmen.
About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: Online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.