NPCA denounces pending legislation, saying it would open most USNPS units to hunting and recreational shooting

WASHINGTON--(ENEWSPF)--May 29 - 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.