Editor’s Note: This is a guest post in response to Ben Lamb’s blog on the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act.

America’s sportsmen and women are extremely fortunate. In the U.S. we have some of the greatest wildlife of any nation and the most successful wildlife conservation funding model in the world. We are really fortunate to have the dedicated organizations that care about protecting our hunting heritage for the next generations of outdoorsmen and women.

These hunter-conservationist organizations again are working to advance federal legislation which will require the nearly 500 million acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to have open access for hunting, angling, trapping, and recreational target shooting. The 20 biggest hunting organizations in the U.S. support H.R. 1825, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act.

This list includes: Archery Trade Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Boone & Crockett Club, Bowhunting Preservation Alliance, Catch-a-Dream Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Conservation Force, Dallas Safari Club, Delta Waterfowl Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Trappers Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, North American Bear Foundation, Pope & Young Club, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society, Safari Club International, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Wild Sheep Foundation, & Wildlife Forever.

Most people do not realize that public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are not automatically open to hunting, fishing and recreational target shooting. H.R. 1825 would make our outdoor heritage part of every public land management plan. Think of the opportunities that will open up for more hunters on the 500 million acres these agencies control?!

In fact, federal lands need to be defended. Anti-hunting groups, like WildEarth Guardian and the Center for Biological Diversity, will use any loophole to direct unending litigation to ban our hunting opportunities on federal public lands. It has been happening on over 300 National Wildlife Refuges for over a decade, wasting taxpayer dollars on legal fees rather than conservation. H.R. 1825 will close this loophole which anti-hunting NGOs have used to chip away at our freedoms on public lands.

Another example is that in Michigan one man convinced a federal judge that his recreational interests as a cross-country skier should supersede hunting on the Huron and Manistee National Forests! H.R. 1825 will protect the U.S. Forest Service from such mind-numbing litigation.

Doesn’t this legislation seem totally justified? Shouldn’t we expect more recreational opportunities from the two federal land management agencies that manage nearly 500 million acres of public land?

H.R. 1825, does not create hunting, fishing or recreational shooting opportunities where they are not already authorized. The bill does not remove Wilderness Act protections from lands appropriately designated as Wilderness, nor does it authorize motorized vehicle use or the development of permanent roads in Wilderness Areas. This bill simply protects congressionally authorized activities from legal challenges that seek to interfere with statutorily authorized hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal land.

We cannot allow legal loopholes and abstract arguments become the downfall of our hunting heritage. Hunters, anglers, trappers, and recreational target shooters should continue to stand united, just as the 20 largest hunting organizations are doing to protect the future of our sport. Please consider calling your elected official today and ask for their support of H.R. 1825 the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act.

– Melissa Simpson is the Director of Government Affairs and Science Based Conservation for Safari Club International