President Trump just scored a huge win for sportsmen and women by signing a sweeping, bipartisan bill that will dramatically loosen restrictions on hunting and fishing on public lands. As avid lovers of the outdoors, this is a big win for our families, as well as for the families across Montana and this nation who cherish their time outside as much as ours do.
Named after the late John D. Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in history and an avid sportsman who passed away last month at the age of 92, S. 47 includes numerous provisions that not only make it easier for sportsmen to access public lands, but also make it harder for the government to close off those lands for their use.
Most importantly, the legislation permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Plain and simple, LWCF exists to expand public access to federal lands. Currently, an estimated 10 million acres are inaccessible to the public. This means only a select few sportsmen and women can access some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities our country has to offer.
The new law also takes significant steps toward ensuring that future federal officials cannot arbitrarily restrict sporting activities on federal lands, clarifying that all federal lands are open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless otherwise designated by the Secretary of the Interior.
The Trump administration has been an unfaltering friend to sportsmen like us. Unfortunately, future administrations may not be so well-disposed to that lifestyle. That’s why it’s so important this package of bills are now law – to prevent any future effort to prohibit hunting and fishing on lands that are owned by the American people.
This is yet another example this administration’s commitment to keeping its promises. The importance of access to public lands was a major focus for both of us when we were on the campaign trail together in 2017 and 2018, and we couldn’t be happier with what we’ve achieved since then.
For us, two people who have spent countless hours and days enjoying our public lands in Montana and across the country, this law protects our way of life. This law, which protects our access to some of the most amazing parts of Big Sky Country, and other states in all corners of our country, will allow us to instill our love for the outdoors in our kids and grandkids.
Thanks to S. 47, the Interior Secretary must consult with state wildlife officials and allow for public notice and comment before closing off any parcel of public land to sporting activities. Temporary closures are limited to 180 days and can only be renewed up to three times, but must also be narrowly justified. Permanent closures, meanwhile, require the Secretary to extensively document the rationale for the decision, how the Department responded to concerns raised through public comments, and demonstrate that closing the land was necessary.
Further, the new law also authorizes the Secretary to lease or permit the use of public lands for shooting ranges, which currently have to navigate a complex web of local, state, and federal regulations, and frequently face organized opposition from anti-gun activists.
This bipartisan public lands package is a tremendous victory for us, our children, and our grandchildren. We applaud President Trump for this new standard of access to our public lands – something that all of us sportsmen and women can appreciate.