At the beginning of this week, the U.S. Senate took up consideration of an important bill package entitled the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act. The package, if passed, would accomplish some great things for sportsmen—not least among them increased access to public lands for hunting, angling and recreation. But like most things in Washington, even this package (it’s even in the name) was buried because of partisan gridlock and dysfunction.
That a bill package that boasted 45 co-sponsors in the Senate who fully span the political spectrum failed is truly disheartening, and leaves Westerners with little hope for seeing even commonsense legislation passing. While the package did make it onto the floor Monday night, radical and unrelated amendments from both parties crippled the bill. The package fell victim to the same partisan fights over amendments that have derailed too many common-sense bipartisan bills this year.
Provisions of the legislation would have significantly increased funding to be used to acquire both tracts of lands for access for hunting and angling as well as for habitat protection and regeneration. What’s more, the act directed both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to manage land with a mandate to specifically include hunting and angling, something that’s often been ignored in the past in favor of other uses.
Sportsmen’s groups had asked that the bill be taken up only with amendments that were germane to sportsmen-related activities, yet members from both sides of the aisle introduced amendments that dramatically altered the bill, attempting to force tough votes in an election year. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas introduced a particular egregious amendment attempting to force a sale of huge amounts of public lands, a seemingly antithetical amendment to sportsmen interests.
Gridlock in our nation’s capital is of course nothing new. But when commonsense, thoughtful legislation is killed because elections are just around the bend and each side wants to make as much noise as possible, Westerners will lose every time.