Concerns that hunting and fishing are slowly slipping away as pastimes in the United States have led the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation that some fear would open more of the National Park System to hunting.
The legislation first surfaced last fall as the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act. But it didn't gain passage, and so was resurrected earlier this year by Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida as the Sportsmen's Heritage Act of 2012.
While the measure does not specifically open more areas of the National Park System to hunting -- many national preserves already allow hunting, as do some national seashores -- it also does not specifically prevent that from happening. Rather, the legislation states that "(N)othing in this title requires the opening of national park or national monuments under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service to hunting or recreational shooting."
Before passing the bill to the Senate, the representatives also amended it to limit presidential authority to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 by requiring that the governor and legislature of the state in which the proposed monument is located approve the designation.
“The U.S. House of Representatives ... passed legislation that would open much of our National Park System to hunting and recreational shooting," said Craig Obey, the National Parks Conservation Association's senior vice president of government affairs. "Not only does this bill ignore the millions of families who visit, value, and love experiencing and learning about our heritage in our National Park System, but its odd treatment of many National Park Service areas is highly arbitrary and wholly inappropriate.
“There are plenty of public lands, both federal and state, that provide appropriate opportunities for hunting and recreational shooting," he continued. "Yet, in the absence of a perceived national need to hunt squirrels in Frederick Douglass’s backyard, or conduct target practice at the Gettysburg Cemetery or the Flight 93 Memorial, the House has passed legislation that would seem to contemplate such ridiculous notions.
"Perhaps there is a need to hunt ravens at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site, or aid restoration of the National Mall by eliminating excess pigeons. In the absence of the House showing any willingness to exempt such places from its bill, we are left to contemplate such absurd possibilities, however implausible they may seem. The thoughtless approach to drafting and considering this legislation was a disservice to the House and to the richness of experience and heritage protected by our National Park System for the enjoyment of the American people."