The U.S. House of Representatives approved The Sportsmen's Heritage Act April 17. Most House Republicans supported the bill, along with 39 House Democrats. Vote tally was 274-146.
Illinois Republicans Bob Dold and Tim Johnson voted against the bill. Under the bill, federal land managers would be required to support and facilitate hunting and fishing, and require Congress to approve decisions to restrict these activities.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said on the floor that the latter provision is needed because the Obama administration recently tried to limit target shooting on certain lands.
"An agency spokesman was cited in a news article saying that the proposed ban was being enacted in response to urbanites who, and I quote, 'freak out' when they hear shooting and that the restriction wasn't rooted in public safety, but rather to reduce, and I quote again, 'social conflict,' " Hastings said.
The bill would also clarify that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot regulate ammunition components or fishing gear. Hastings said this clarification is needed because just last month, environmentalists lobbied the EPA to impose these restrictions.
"Regulating components of ammunition and fishing tackle would be a massive power grab by the EPA despite the clear lack of legal authority," he said.
The bill would also require the government to issue licenses allowing 41 sport hunters to import their polar bear trophies from Canada. These imports are now blocked under current law, but Republicans say the 41 licenses at issue would be used for bears that were hunted legally, before polar bears were placed on the endangered species list.
House Democrats led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) argued that most of the bill is unnecessary, since the EPA has not made any actual decisions to clamp down on hunting and fishing activities.
But Democrats spent most of their time Tuesday arguing against the rule for the bill, which also deemed the Republican 2013 budget resolution as having passed both the House and Senate. Democrats said the GOP was trying to force acceptance of that bill, which passed the House in March.
However, Republicans argued that the "deeming resolution" was needed to give House committees guidelines as they prepare for the 2013 spending bills.
The bill is not expected to be taken up by the Senate, and the White House, while likely opposed, had not issued a statement by the time the bill passed the House.