Exclude the National Park System from HR 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act
Last Tuesday April 17, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, which as drafted, could allow the National Park System to be opened to hunting and recreational shooting. The bill included language that purports to exempt national parks and national monuments from hunting and recreational shooting, but it does not provide a guarantee. The bill states that nothing requires the opening of those lands to hunting, but without a genuine exclusion for national park system lands, a future Secretary of the Interior could decide to open any national park or monument to hunting. Additionally, the bill ignores the many designations of “national park unit” that also do not allow hunting, such as national historical park, national military park, national memorial, etc. The House had the opportunity to apply the bill’s exemption to these national park system units by voting in support of a technical clarifying amendment offered by Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ). Mr. Holt’s amendment was rejected.
Now that the bill has moved to the Senate, its advocates are working aggressively to get it to the Senate floor. It is essential that the bill include a genuine exclusion for national parks that does not change current law.
The 397 units of the National Park System include a multitude of designations, including national military parks like Gettysburg, national memorials like Wright Brothers, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Flight 93, national historical parks like San Antonio Missions and Harper’s Ferry, and many others. As with national parks like Yellowstone and national monuments like Devils Tower or the Statue of Liberty, these national park units have never allowed hunting or recreational shooting. There are fewer than 70 units of the National Park System that currently do allow hunting (e.g., national preserves in Alaska, as well as some preserves, national recreation areas, seashores, etc. in the lower-48). NPCA is not advocating to change the status quo in those places that currently do allow hunting.
There are plenty of public lands, both federal and state, that provide appropriate opportunities for hunting and recreational shooting. Millions of families visit, value, and love experiencing and learning about our heritage in our National Park System. It is absurd to think of opening up these places where we take our families to learn about the history of America, hike, watch wildlife and honor the sacrifices of our ancestors, to hunting and recreational shooting. Perhaps there is a need to hunt ravens at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, or aid restoration of the National Mall by eliminating excess pigeons. In the absence of an exclusion of our national park units from the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, we are left to contemplate such absurd possibilities, however implausible they may seem.
For over 100 years, there has been broad agreement that national parks should be a sanctuary for wildlife, where poaching, game hunting and target practice are forbidden. The bill that passed the House on April 17 would allow that long held agreement to change. We are asking that Senators stand up for our national parks and the millions who cherish and visit them, by ensuring that any such legislation the Senate considers retains current law by excluding from its scope all of the national park system’s 397 units.
Take Action: Please write your senators immediately and ask them to exempt units of the National Park System from H.R. 4089.