Murkowski: America’s Public Lands Should be Open Unless Closed

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today spoke on the Senate floor to highlight important legislation she has sponsored to provide millions of sportsmen and sportswomen with greater access to and new opportunities on public lands. 

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged her Senate colleagues to support her Sportsmen’s Act (S. 556), which she shepherded through the committee in November. That measure, along with a measure (S. 659) being considered by the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, combine to form the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act that Murkowski introduced with Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) earlier this year.

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“The heart of the Sportsmen’s Act is its provision to make federal lands ‘open unless closed,’ which establishes a new standard for access to public lands across the country,” Murkowski said. “Our federal lands will be ‘open unless closed,’ not closed until opened or closed by bureaucratic inertia. It doesn’t get any simpler than this: Americans should be able to access and enjoy their public lands.”

Murkowski pointed to the committee’s bipartisan work, under her leadership as chairman, to overcome the political brinkmanship that has previously stood in the way of the Sportsmen’s Act’s advancement in the Senate.

“Sportsmen’s legislation has a long history of strong bipartisan support here in the Senate, but it has failed to advance because this was, for years, a largely dysfunctional chamber,” Murkowski said. “But this year is different. The Senate is back to regular order and the committees are working hard to prepare legislation for consideration on the Senate floor.”

Murkowski also discussed her willingness to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – a provision added to the bill in committee – provided that it is reformed to limit federal land acquisition and adhere to the congressionally intended balance of funding to States. 

“States are leaders on recreation and conservation. The reforms included for LWCF try to restore balance to the state and federal split by ensuring that at least 40 percent of LWCF dollars are allocated to states for state-based programs,” Murkowski said. “Like many Western members, I am deeply concerned about unfettered land acquisition by the federal government. These reforms are a step in the right direction and provide a great framework for further discussion.”

Murkowski noted her support for a Sportsmen’s provision – the reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act – that is being considered by the EPW Committee. She also expressed her optimism that the full Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act will up brought up for passage on the Senate floor next year.

“I am very pleased we are on a better track for this legislation in the 114th Congress, and want to again thank my colleagues for working with me to get there,” Murkowski said. “As a result of our hard work, millions of hunters, fishermen, recreational shooters, and other outdoor enthusiasts could soon have greater access and greater opportunities on federal lands. That’s something we should all be proud to support.”    

Click here to view video of Murkowski discussing the advancement of the Sportsmen’s Act through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Click here to view video of Murkowski discussing reforms to the LWCF, including her desire to empower states and limit federal land acquisition.

Click here to view the full video of Murkowski’s address on Sportsmen’s legislation.