Hunting Access: Why You Should Care About the Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee

It may appear to be nothing more than semantics, but a proposal to make the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee a permanent advisory panel rather than one that must have its charter renewed every two years by Congress is a significant step in ensuring wildlife, habitat conservation, and hunting are priorities in federal land-management decisions.

The Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (WHHCC) advisory committee was created in 2010, replacing the Sporting Conservation Council, to advise the Interior and Agriculture departments on wildlife and habitat conservation, hunting, and recreational shooting issues on federal land.

In accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the WHHCC requires Congressional reauthorization every two years for it to continue operating. The committee was renewed for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, but rather than renew its charter for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio) has proposed a bill that will make the panel a permanent advisory committee.

The Sportsmen's Heritage And Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act introduced into the House by Latta and three co-sponsors on July 23 exempts the WHHCC from the Federal Advisory Committee Act's two-year renewal stipulation by making it a "permanent" committee.

“Ensuring that sportsmen and sportswomen have an advisory capacity role across future Administrations is vital for all who enjoy the great outdoors throughout the nation to engage and provide consensus recommendations to federal agencies that will benefit from the Council’s vast experience and expertise," Latta said. "I am confident that this legislation will serve to the betterment of current and future generations of hunter-conservationists.”

“This legislation will ensure that sportsmen are able to provide first-hand knowledge of the wildlife and hunting issues to the federal government," agreed Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.

The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources and Agriculture committee where it will be reviewed before introduction onto the floor.

Like its predecessor, the revamped committee would include members of state fish and wildlife agencies, bird and big-game hunting groups, representatives of Indian tribes, and leaders in tourism, hunting equipment, and farming industries.

Members would serve staggered terms of two, three, and four years. The committee would meet at least twice a year and file an annual report.