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Heitkamp, others reintroduce Sportsmen's Act

Heidi Heitkamp

WASHINGTON—Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., is among a bipartisan group of senators to reintroduce the Sportsmen's Act, which aims to promote hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.

Heitkamp, who is vice-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, introduced the Sportsmen's Act of 2017 along with other caucus leaders.

Heitkamp and others introduced similar legislation in 2015.

The bipartisan bill includes legislation Heitkamp reintroduced recently to expand opportunities for target practice and marksmanship in North Dakota. The legislation would make federal lands in North Dakota and beyond "open unless closed" for fishing, hunting, recreational shooting and other outdoor activities.

"North Dakotans have so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors through hunting and fishing—and our bipartisan bill would expand those opportunities further," Heitkamp said in a statement. "Whether ice fishing in the winter or pheasant hunting in the fall, getting out and enjoying nature sets our state apart. By improving access to public lands, creating more shooting ranges, and providing for input from sportsmen on federal policies, our bipartisan bill would make sure future generations have the same chance to take advantage of the great outdoors."

The Sportsmen's Act would improve opportunities for North Dakota hunters and anglers by:

• Providing more federal support for shooting ranges: The bill includes Heitkamp's legislation to create more opportunities for North Dakotans to enjoy the outdoors through target practice and marksmanship. It encourages states to develop shooting ranges by making more funds available to state fish and wildlife agencies through the Pittman-Robertson Act, a federal program financed by excise taxes on firearms.

• Allowing bows to be transported through national parks: This provision would enable bows to be transported across U.S. national parks. Currently, firearms can be carried across national parks but bows cannot be transported, presenting unnecessary issues for hunters who want to cross these lands.

• Providing better access on public lands: The bill would require federal land management agencies to identify public lands without public access routes and create a plan to provide access routes to lands that have significant potential for recreational use. The bill also would help counties and states better manage primary access routes on public lands.

Introducing the Sportsmen's Act of 2017 with Heitkamp were U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; and Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

"For too long, sportsmen's access to our federal lands has been restricted without reason or transparency," Murkowski said. "Our bipartisan Sportsmen's Act will ensure that our federal lands are open unless closed, provide new opportunities for more Americans to enjoy those lands, and require federal agencies to expand and enhance access in accordance with their missions. The bill we introduced is an important first step as we seek to have these priorities signed into law."

Risch said he is confident of getting the Sportsmen's Act to the White House.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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