Frontal Assault on Wilderness Act!
Deceptively Named Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (HR 4089) and Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act (S 2066) Would Essentially Repeal the 1964 Wilderness Act.
On April 17, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4089, the deceptively named Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, supposedly “to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting.” The bill is a thinly disguised measure to gut the 1964 Wilderness Act and protections for every unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System.The Senate version of this bill, S 2066, has not had a hearing yet. While the language in that bill is a bit different, the disastrous result would be similar. Both of Idaho’s Senators are sponsors of the Senate version, S 2066.
HR 4089 would give hunting, fishing, shooting, and fish and wildlife management top priority in Wilderness, rather than protecting the wilderness character and wilderness values, as is currently the case. This bill would allow endless, extensive habitat manipulations in Wilderness under the guise of “wildlife conservation” or for providing hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting experiences. It would allow the construction of roads to facilitate such uses, and would allow the construction of dams, buildings, or other structures within Wildernesses. (S 2066 has similar provisions to the above).
Specifically, section 104(e)(1) strips away the Wilderness Act’s prohibitions on the use of motorized and mechanized vehicles, motorboats and aircraft, other motorized equipment, and structures and installations any activity related to hunting, angling, recreational shooting, or wildlife conservation. For example, this would allow for any hunter, angler, or recreational shooter to drive their ATV in Wilderness as long as they were engaged in one of these activities. While the sponsors of the bill have stated this isn’t the law’s intent, an amendment to the bill to make certain this wasn’t the result was opposed by the bill’s supporters and defeated in a House vote. (S 2066 does exempt recreational use of vehicles in Wilderness, but no consolation can be taken from that fact because of the other disastrous provisions).
Section 104(e)(2) would waive “any requirements imposed by the Wilderness Act” for federal public land managers or state wildlife managers for any activity undertaken in the guise of wildlife management (S 2066 has similar provisions). In addition to allowing the construction of roads and unlimited use of motor vehicles and aircraft, this provision would allow any sort of wildlife habitat manipulation that managers desire to do. Logging could be allowed, for example, to create more forage for elk (under S 2066, it would be non-commercial logging). Lakes and streams could be poisoned, and exotic fishes could be planted to provide more angling opportunities. Predator control, including aerial gunning for wolves in the Selway-Bitterroot, Gospel Hump and Frank Church-River of No Return Wildernesses would be allowed. So would trapping and poisoning. There is literally no limit to what managers could do in Wilderness in the name of wildlife management.
If all this isn’t enough, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service points out that because Section 104(c) of the bill bars application of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), none of these activities will need to undergo any environmental review for their impacts on wilderness values, wildlife, or threatened and endangered species.
The bill is backed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Safari Club International, and a coalition of hunting and gun-rights organizations, including the National Rifle Association. These groups are trying to rush this bill, as passed by the House, to the Senate floor for a vote. It is imperative that you contact your senators now and urge them to oppose both HR 4089 and S 2066!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Write or email Senator Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, and Senator Bingaman, The Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Send a copy to your U.S. Senators and Representative too.
Web contact for Senator Reid: http://www.reid.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm.
Web contact for Senator Bingaman: http://www.bingaman.senate.gov/contact/.
- Oppose HR 4089 and S 2066. Both laws gut the Wilderness Act and strip protection from every single unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System across the country.
- Massive human manipulations of fish, wildlife, and habitat like those allowed by HR 4089 and S 2066 should not be allowed in our precious Wilderness or they will cease to truly be Wilderness.
- HR 4089 and S 2066 would allow agencies to build roads and use motor vehicles in Wilderness, and construct dams, buildings, and other structures with any connection to fish and wildlife.
- Environmental review under NEPA must not be waived by HR 4089.
Wilderness Watch has prepared an excellent analysis of HR 4089, much of which is also applicable to S 2066:
You can also sign the Wilderness Watch petition:
Please take the time to oppose these bad bills. Never has there been such an attempt to destroy the Wilderness Act and the very idea of wildness. Ask Senators Reid and Bingaman to oppose HR 4089 and S 2066 at every step of the way and to never let them pass the Senate.