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GOP measure would undermine Wilderness Act

Eagles Nest Wilderness

Poorly written bill could prevent BLM from enforcing rules on destruction of petroglyphs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Republicans in the U.S. House this week continued their all-out assault on public lands by passing the so-called  Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (H.R. 4089, which purportedly ensures public lands access for hunters and anglers — but hunting and fishing have always been allowed on almost all national forest and BLM lands, including wilderness.

Under some interpretations, language in the bill could even result in an open season for vandals to continue destroying the country’s heritage by limiting the ability of the BLM to  protect petroglyphs, cacti and other significant objects from shooting vandalism within the national monuments it manages.

In reality, the measure is a thinly disguised attempt to weaken the Wilderness Act and could  also affect the president’s ability to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act. Extreme anti-environmental Republicans have long sought to hinder the executive branch from designating monuments, which in recent years has been done only after extensive collaboration with local stakeholders.

Conservation advocates slammed the House GOP majority for passing the bill.

“The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act is nothing more than a Trojan Horse mascarading as a pro-hunting, pro-fishing bill,” said Wilderness Society policy advisor Dave Alberswerth.  “It rolls back many bedrock environmental and preservation protections, such as the Wilderness Act and  the Antiquities Act.”

“Hunting and fishing are already permitted in wilderness areas, pastimes that millions of sportsmen enjoy each year,” said Wilderness Society director Jeremy Garncarz.

Another section of the bill would short-cut long-standing planning rules for some management decisions that require extensive review and full disclosure of impacts.

The bill would also exempt toxic lead in ammunition and fishing equipment from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act, despite the fact that affordable, effective nontoxic alternatives exist for lead ammunition and lead sinkers for all hunting and fishing activities.

Secondary lead poisoning from spent lead ammunition kills millions of birds annually. More than 150 organizations in 38 states are pressuring the EPA for federal rules requiring use of nontoxic bullets and shot for hunting and shooting sports to prevent lead poisoning of wildlife such as bald eagles, endangered condors, loons and swans, and to protect public health.

Recent scientific studies show that hunters have higher lead levels in their bloodstream, and more associated health problems, than the public at large. Lead poisoning can cause miscarriage, premature birth, learning disabilities and nervous system disorders.

 

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