February 13, 2019
For Immediate Release
Washington, DC – The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society (RGS/AWS), North America’s foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife, are celebrating Senate approval of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47) on a strong bipartisan vote of 92 – 8. The Natural Resources Management Act is a package of bills with numerous provisions to benefit conservation and access for sportsmen and women, several of which were top RGS/AWS priorities. Over 40 other groups recently joined RGS/AWS to call for a Senate vote on the package, for which U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) built bipartisan support in the waning days of the 115th Congress late last year.
“The diverse uses and benefits of our nation’s forests and other natural resources make conservation a truly bipartisan issue, and we thank the Senate for showing such broad support for the Natural Resources and Management Act,” remarked Ben Jones, RGS/AWS President and CEO.
Provisions incorporated in the bill include:
- Guaranteeing funding for public access enhancement projects and permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
- Declaring U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands open for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless specifically closed
- Directing the USFS, BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service to annually identify lands where sporting related activities are permitted, but where access is currently unavailable or restricted.
- Requiring public reporting of federal agency reimbursements of legal fees on lawsuits against the government
“There are landmark programs and more subtle – though no less critical – provisions included in the Natural Resources Management Act,” noted Brent Rudolph, RGS/AWS Director of Conservation Policy. “We look forward to working with our partners and Congressional members to see this bipartisan package passed through the House of Representatives as well.”
Early last year, RGS/AWS worked with Congress to boost funding available to wildlife agencies and programs, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but LWCF authorization expired despite a 50-year track record of successfully conserving habitat and expanding recreational access. RGS/AWS joined more than 200 other organizations calling for permanently reauthorizing LWCF late last year, and continued those efforts in cultivating bipartisan support for S.47.
Among the top priorities for RGS/AWS are efforts to curb the abuse of excessive litigation aimed at stopping or slowing down sustainable management of healthy young forest habitat on federal lands. A provision included within S.47 would support this effort simply by requiring agencies to report on legal expenses awarded under the Equal Access to Justice Act. USFS has been voluntarily reporting on these expenses in its annual budget request.
“This package enjoys the support of numerous stakeholder organizations across the political spectrum,” noted Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, during his floor speech, before continuing, “I know how frustrated sportsmen’s groups have been trying to get their bills passed the last few years.”
Action by the House of Representatives will be required to enact these provisions.
Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society/American Woodcock Society is North America’s foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS/AWS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.
As a financially healthy, accountable, and transparent organization, RGS/AWS holds designation as a Charity Navigator Four-Star charity and Better Business Bureau accreditation. Information on RGS/AWS, its mission, management projects and membership are on the web at: www.RuffedGrouseSociety.org.
Brent Rudolph, RGS/AWS Director of Conservation Policy