On December 19th, Congress approved two legislative packages which include many strong provisions that will further conservation efforts and benefit America’s sportsmen and women.
On December 16, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey released the text of two legislative packages that together will fund the government until the end of Fiscal Year 2020. One of the packages released by Chairwoman Lowey, H.R. 1865, includes funding for the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior as well as a number of other federal agencies.
Many of the sporting-conservation related provisions included in H.R. 1865 are longstanding priorities for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). In advance of the appropriations negotiations, CSF worked tirelessly to advance these priorities either as standalone bills or as part of other packages. Notable bipartisan agreements in the H.R. 1865 minibus include:
- Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act – this provision would provide much needed flexibility to state wildlife agencies to modernize the way they recruit, retain and reactivate hunters, recreational shooters, and archery enthusiasts to ensure a prosperous future of the highly successful Pittman-Robertson Fund.
- Exempting lead ammunition and fishing tackle – this provision exempts lead fishing tackle and ammunition from the unnecessary purview of the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Increase in funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System – H.R. 1865 provides an increase of $14 million to bring the total funds available for the operation of the Refuge System to $502 million for FY20. The Refuge System is made up of 568 individual Refuges that collectively accommodate over 2.4 million hunting-related visits and 7.3 million fishing visits annually.
- Increase in funding to combat Asian Carp - $25 million is provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for the purposes of addressing Asian Carp, an increase of $14 million from FY19 enacted levels.
- Increase in funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund - $46 million is provided for on-the-ground wetland conservation for waterfowl and other wetland dependent fish and wildlife species. This is an increase of $4 million from FY19 enacted levels.
- Increase in funding for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants - $67 million is provided to the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, an increase of $3 million from FY19 enacted levels.
- Increase in funding for Wild Horse and Burro Management - $101 million in total is provided to the Bureau of Land Management for wild horse and burro management, an increase of $21 million from FY19 enacted levels.
- Funding for USDA APHIS to combat CWD - $9 million is provided to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to combat Chronic Wasting Disease. $5 million of funds are to be allocated directly to state agriculture and wildlife agencies to further develop CWD surveillance, testing, management, and response activities.
“CSF applauds House and Senate Appropriators for providing funding for some of the most important programs for America’s sportsmen and women,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “We are grateful for the
leadership of Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Rep. Austin Scott and CSC Member Sen. Jim Risch for their commitment over the last two Congresses to secure the inclusion of the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act as part of this package. This provision will play a pivotal role in ensuring the future of one of America’s most successful conservation programs, the Pittman-Robertson Fund.”
The bill now awaits President Trump’s signature to become enacted law. CSF looks forward to advancing these and other priorities further in the next appropriations cycle.