For Immediate Release
Threatening Legislation Could Overturn Park Service Mandate to Protect America’s Heritage; Allow for Hunting, Trapping and Recreational Shooting in National Parks
New analysis reveals true impact of HR 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, to the National Park System
WASHINGTON - According to a new legal analysis released today by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), national parks across the country are at risk from legislation that would change the fundamental purpose of the National Park System. Instead of protecting and preserving our national heritage and wildlife, most of the 397 units of the National Park System would be permitted to allow hunting, trapping and recreational shooting. The legislation has been touted as a tool to prioritize hunting and shooting on Forest Service and BLM lands, but it goes far beyond this goal by including the National Park System. If enacted, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (HR 4089) would be offensive treatment for our national treasures and the Americans who cherish them.
“This bill is a Trojan horse that, contrary to the claims of its boosters, would fundamentally alter the most basic protections in our National Park System and is a litigator’s dream,” said Craig Obey, senior vice president for government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association. “Every national park site is at risk, from Yellowstone to Gettysburg to the Frederick Douglass house.”
As one of the greatest threats in modern times to the statutory regime governing management of the National Park System, the bill passed by the House includes an oddly written “exemption” for national parks and monuments, but ignores the many designations of national park units such as national historical parks, national military parks, national memorials, etc. Moreover, the exemption for national parks and monuments is written so as not to ‘require’ their opening. The effect of this language would be that hunting would be permitted, where currently these activities are prohibited unless authorized by Congress.
“Today, hunting, trapping and recreational shooting are prohibited throughout the National Park System except in places where they have been specifically authorized by Congress. Under this bill, the law regarding such uses would no longer be closed unless opened, but would instead be open unless closed,” said Obey. “National parks were set aside to protect the wildlife that roam and historic sites that preserve our nation’s history—not for using some of America’s most valued treasures as target practice.”
The legal analysis conducted by the law firm of Arnold & Porter, LLP, also finds that the bill would force national park managers to undertake lengthy and potentially costly analyses in order to justify closing park units, yet would open those units without any such analysis. For example, park managers would need to use the “best science” to justify prohibiting paintball games on the hallowed ground at Gettysburg. In a time of budget austerity, the National Park Service would be required to conduct lengthy, costly analyses to justify continuing to prohibit activities that common sense says should be prohibited in solemn places where so many Americans lost their lives in battle, or simply allow those activities because they lack the resources to conduct the requisite analyses.
Further, the legislation would also require the Park Service to permit the use of off-road vehicles (ORVs) anywhere they are needed to provide access for hunters to engage in trapping, shooting, hunting or fishing activities. It has long been recognized that ORVs cause serious environmental damage and interfere with the experience most visitors have at national parks.
“There are plenty of public lands where recreational shooting and sport hunting are a reasonable and appropriate use[s], but those lands do not include national parks, historical sites, or any unit of the park system where they’re not already permitted by law. There is no reasonable justification for including the National Park System in this legislation,” said Obey. “Those who think this bill is just about hunting opportunities haven’t read it. And if they’ve read it, they ought to re-read it.”
Now the bill has moved to the Senate and its advocates are working aggressively to get it to the Senate floor. NPCA is encouraging the public to contact their Senators to prevent this threatening legislation from damaging our National Park System. Take action here: https://secure.npca.org/site/Advocacy?page=UserAction&id=807.
To view a copy of the legal analysis, completed by the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP, please visit: http://www.npca.org/assets/pdf/Legal_Impact_of_HR_4089.pdf.
NPCA is a non-profit, private organization dedicated to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the U.S. National Park System.