Murkowski Stands Up for Alaska’s Sportsmen and Women

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today highlighted her efforts to expand and enhance sportsmen’s access by making public lands throughout Alaska and the nation “open unless closed” for fishing, hunting, recreational shooting, and other outdoor activities. Murkowski successfully included her Sportsmen’s Act and several other sportsmen’s provisions in the broad, bipartisan energy bill that passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 85 to 12.

“For too long, access to our public lands for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other outdoor activities has been restricted at the whim of the federal government,” Murkowski said. “My bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act that was passed as part of the broad energy bill instructs federal agencies to facilitate the expansion of access to our public lands by declaring that our lands are ‘open unless closed.’ The Senate’s approval of this measure is a big step forward to allowing long-held traditions to be passed down from generation to generation without the federal government getting in the way.”

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led the committee’s approval of S.556, the Sportsmen’s Act, in November 2015. Her bill would:

  • Provide a clear congressional declaration of policy for all departments and agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities on federal lands in accordance with their missions;
  • Establish a national “open unless closed” standard for Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands, while ensuring the public has notice of and can comment on decisions regarding temporary and permanent closures;
  • Require agency justifications for proposed closures, and limit temporary closures to no more than 180 days (subject to renewal only after a new notice and comment period);
  • Prohibit the National Park Service from restricting the lawful transportation of bows and crossbows that remain in a vehicle while an individual is in a national park unit;
  • Facilitate commercial filming on public lands by requiring agencies to finalize a single joint land-use fee schedule within 180 days, exempting small crews of three or less from commercial filming fees, exempting small businesses from having to acquire additional permits and pay additional fees for incidental filming, and ensuring that First Amendment rights to free speech and newsgathering are protected on public lands; and
  • Implement the “Hunt Unrestricted on National Treasures” (HUNT) Act, authored by Sen Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., that would direct all relevant agencies to improve access to high-priority federal lands where hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation are permitted.

Among the additional sportsmen’s provisions approved as part of Murkowski’s broad, bipartisan energy bill were the National Fish Habitat Partnership Program, which would promote recreational fishing through the conservation of aquatic species, and the reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which is particularly important to preserve habitat for waterfowl hunting.