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Group supports bill to expand fishing access

The American Sportfishing Association said it supports the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act. The bill, introduced by Reps. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., and Dan Boren, D-Okla., seeks to ensure that recreational fishing, hunting and shooting sports are supported as public activities on federal lands.

The two introduced the act on Sept. 2. It directs federal land management agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, to apply the multiuse mandates in their management plans to support public access to the nation’s public lands.

“While many of these agencies are most commonly known for their timber resources and energy development, federal lands also offer tremendous recreational fishing opportunities,” American Sportfishing Association vice president Gordon Robertson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, access for traditional recreational activities on these lands is limited, as is public awareness of the problem. With lack of access being one of the most common reasons keeping anglers from enjoying a day on the water, this new legislation opens an opportunity to increase sportfishing participation, not just on public lands, but nationwide.”

A recent congressional report concluded that more than 35 million acres of land owned by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have inadequate access for sportsmen and women, according to the American Sportfishing Association. Although the bill does not directly open federal land to recreational fishing and hunting, by directing managers to operate federal lands as “open until closed,” overall access will increase significantly.

“This legislation will encourage recreational fishing, hunting and the shooting sports on public lands and waters and increase participation in some of our nation’s most cherished pastimes,” Robertson said.