March 18, 2019
By Tony J. Peterson
Last week, President Trump signed into law a comprehensive bill (S.47- John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act) that was not only an example that bipartisanship is alive and well in our government (or at least still possible), but a true win for bowhunters of all stripes. Each stage of the bill’s progress, through both the House and the Senate, showed tremendous support on both sides of the aisle and it was a no-brainer for our President to autograph it.
The bill, which has positive implications for anyone who loves the outdoors – including rock climbers, bird watchers, trail runners and fishermen – is the aggregate of over 100 separate bills and easily the largest conservation-related piece of legislation to make it through in over a decade.
Welcome stats from the bill include the creation of 1.3 million acres of new wilderness and an additional 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas. In Washington and Montana, the bill withdraws 370,000 acres from mineral development projects. Further, in the list of the bullet points outlining the objectives of S.47 is “wildlife conservation”, two-words-worth of warm and fuzzies for anyone with a penchant toward spending time in the forests, mountains or sage-brush flats.
All of those things are a net positive for public land bowhunters, but it’s the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that truly caps off this impressive bill.
The LWCF had been in place for over 50 years when it was allowed to expire in 2018. The loss of funding from that lapse totals well into the hundreds of millions of dollars, all of which would have been used to further enhance our lands and waters. Now, with the passage of S.47, those funds are back and that’s good news for all of us.
The LWCF stems from a simple idea. Resource extraction in the form of offshore oil and gas drilling would be taxed to fund the conservation of our land and water. From 1964 until last year, that’s what happened to the tune of $900,000,000 each year in royalties. Although not all of that money makes to projects that directly benefit bowhunters, plenty of it does and it’s nearly an impossible task to find a single county in the this country that hasn’t benefited somehow from LWCF funds.
Naturally, it’s not all roses with the LWCF funds, however. Each year congress decides that a good portion of the royalties paid into the fund should go to projects totally unrelated to the LWCF’s stated goals. Even though it’s pretty much a given that there will be a few unwelcome hands in the cookie jar, the impact of the remaining money has had a tremendous impact resulting in the acquisition of in incredible amount of public land – much of which is open to hunting for all of us. LWCF money can also be traced directly to countless local-level wildlife habitat-improvement projects which can benefit private-land bowhunters as well simply because better habitat tends to produce better game populations.
Why This All Matters
More public land is a win for all of us who value having a place to hunt - the importance of which can’t be overstated. As good as that, at least in my opinion, is the engagement level of the average hunter in promoting this bill and encouraging their elected representatives to step up and support it was incredible.
You’d have a hard time labeling me a social media junky, or much of a fan to be honest. But with the bad comes the good, and in this case information made to the hunting public through the usual social channels about the bill and the various obstacles it faced, was invaluable. It doesn’t hurt that about anyone with a bend toward any outdoor recreation and at least a pair of brain cells should have – and mostly did – support the passage of S.47, but it is still a great example of the new-wave grassroots conservationism that can prompt positive changes up to the highest levels of government.
And that, my fellow bowhunters, is not nothing.