May 2022 Legislative Update
Bipartisan CWD Research and Management Act S. 4111. Months after the House passed this legislation on an overwhelming 393-33 vote, the senate version has been introduced. RMEF urges members to use the advocacy portal on RMEF.org to contact their Senators to encourage their support for this legislation. The bill will authorize $35 million per year for state CWD management grants and $35 million per year for innovative and practical research on this deer and elk disease.
Recreation Act. On May 3rd, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed bipartisan legislation that RMEF has been advocating for in S. 2366 “America’s Outdoor Recreation Act.” The bill would modernize and streamline permitting for filming on federal lands, designate shooting ranges in National Forest and BLM districts, update maps of open and closed roads, and allows volunteer marksmen to recover the entire animal they harvest in national park culls.
Cottonwood and Litigation Reform. As record levels of funding for fire prevention and restoration begin to flow to national forests, active forest management work remains at risk of being stymied by litigation.
The 2015 Cottonwood ELC v US Forest Service decision in the 9th Circuit court has been criticized by officials in the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations because it requires excessive re-consultation that will cost the U.S. Forest Service millions of dollars a year, take 10 years to complete and divert staff from needed hazardous fuels reduction and ecological restoration work. Since 2016, the Forest Service has been sued 27 times and received 49 notices of intent to sue based on the Cottonwood decision. RMEF is seeking either an administrative rule through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or a congressional law change that will enable active forest management projects to proceed.
Wolf Delisting Appeal. At the end of March, the Biden administration filed a Notice of Appeal to challenge a Northern District of California federal court ruling that returned gray wolves to the Endangered Species List in the lower 48 states (outside of the Northern Rockies.) RMEF supports the administration appeal.
Colorado Hunter Ed. RMEF volunteers joined Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Representative Hugh McKean and Representative Kyle Mullica at the State Capitol for a bill signing ceremony for HB22-1168. This legislation allows Colorado schools to offer hunters education as an elective course.
Colorado Highway Crossings. SB 22-151 sponsored by Senator Story Danielson and Representative Will McCluskie passed into law and will fund wildlife highway crossing projects at $5 million from the state general fund. This program will help Colorado compete for additional federal funding that RMEF championed in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Minnesota Elk Relocation. HF 4482 was introduced and heard in committee to provide funding for an elk relocation from the existing northwest Minnesota population to new location in northeast Minnesota. The legislation has been included in the House Omnibus Environment bill and may be part of the end of session negotiations. RMEF has worked with the Minnesota DNR, University of Minnesota and the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa on a feasibility study in the past.
California Bear Petition. Earlier this year RMEF submitted a petition with 900 member signatures to the California Fish and Game Commission in opposition to an HSUS proposal to close bear hunting in the state. In April, the commission rejected the HSUS’s proposal, stating: “Our best available science, from multiple lines of evidence, points to an abundant and stable black bear population. Hunting affects only a small fraction of that population and serves as a management tool to provide key population monitoring data that cannot be easily obtained otherwise.”
Kentucky Ataya Wildlife Management Area. RMEF has been working with The Nature Conservancy this spring in the Kentucky legislature to secure funding to permanently open public access to the 55,000-acre Ataya WMA. Championed by Senator Robin Webb, the legislature passed $3.875 million in their budget bill for the project and it was signed into law. RMEF and partners still need to secure additional funding to complete the project, but this funding will be critical to securing 55,000 acres of permanent hunting access.