Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
E&E: Friday, June 20, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday signaled possible movement on a broadly supported package of sportsmen and conservation bills, though the bill’s prospects remain unclear.

Reid yesterday made a motion to proceed to S. 2363, by Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the latest in a handful of sportsmen’s packages that have so far fallen victim to partisan sniping.

A motion to proceed is the first step in what can be a lengthy process for the Senate to vote on a bill.

One lobbyist for the package said it was unclear whether Reid plans to take up the bill when the Senate resumes Monday, though its near-term prospects were in doubt.

The package of 12 bills includes measures to reauthorize programs that conserve wetlands for waterfowl and allow federal agencies to use revenues from land sales to acquire lands of higher conservation value.

One provision would devote a certain portion of land conservation funding to acquire tracts or easements to increase access to federal lands for hunting, angling and other recreation.

The bill would also require the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service to ensure they are promoting hunting, angling and target shooting opportunities on public lands, a mandate that many sportsmen argue is lacking in those agencies’ core statutes.

The bill currently has 42 co-sponsors and is backed by sportsmen’s groups of varying political stripes. Despite its noncontroversial nature, there’s no telling whether it will fall victim to a partisan fight over amendments similar to what sunk an energy efficiency bill by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

The bill will still be subject to some environmental attacks, particularly for a provision that would clarify U.S. EPA cannot regulate lead ammunition or fishing tackle. Leading Senate Democrats have also opposed that measure in the past.

But the bill has attracted a strong base of co-sponsors and is considered a breakthrough compromise after both Hagan and Murkowski previously introduced their own separate sportsmen’s packages.

In addition, advocacy groups have recently canvassed Capitol Hill to gin up support.

On May 14, more than a dozen representatives from sportsmen’s and other conservation groups discussed hunting, angling and recreational priorities, including the Hagan-Murkowski bill, with the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.

The American Sportfishing Association sent a message to supporters later that month asking them to urge their senators to co-sponsor the measure.

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