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Bill helps hunters, fishermen; big right step

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

In Southwest Alabama, we have a proud tradition of hunting and fishing. From the hunting camps in Monroe County to the fishing boats in Orange Beach, our part of the state is dream territory for outdoorsmen.

As a kid, some of the favorite time I spent with my family was at our hunting camp near Stockton. I also have so many fond memories of fishing on the Gulf with my dad. I’ve carried these same traditions on with my kids. Being outdoors is a way of life for many. It is how we spend our weekends and how we bond with our family and friends.

Sadly, federal policies and rules sometimes make it harder for Americans to enjoy our natural resources. For some reason, federal bureaucrats believe the water and woods belong to the government and not the people. Whether it is closing off federal land to hunting or giving us an extremely short Red Snapper season, the government keeps getting in the way.

Last week, I voted for a bill that will make life a little easier for our nation’s sportsmen. The bill, known as the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, does not solve every problem facing our hunters and fishermen, but it is a big step in the right direction.

For example, the bill opens up more federal lands for hunting and fishing by requiring the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to open federal lands for hunting, fishing, and shooting. If they decide to close off land, they must notify Congress and explain the reason for the closure.

The SHARE ACT also cuts down on burdensome regulatory requirements. Our bill permanently exempts ammunition and fishing tackle from regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Department of Agriculture. This will help prevent the Obama Administration or future presidents from using these regulations to make it harder to acquire ammunition.

Another issue impacting our sportsmen is efforts to push through new gun laws. As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I have always fought back against attempts to make it harder for law-abiding Americans to get a gun.

The SHARE Act helps protect the Second Amendment by allowing lawful possession of firearms on Army Corps of Engineers lands, such as campgrounds. This will ensure that every American has the right to protect themselves while at Army Corps facilities.

Even more, the SHARE Act encourages federal land management agencies to partner with state and local governments to operate shooting ranges. Shooting ranges are important tools to help promote gun safety procedures.

Like I said, the SHARE Act does not solve every problem. More work is needed to get a longer season for our Red Snapper fishermen. Last year, the House passed a bill that include three of my provisions to help get the federal government out of the way and get us a longer season.

Unfortunately, that bill has stalled out in the Senate. I have talked with Senator Jeff Sessions and Senator Richard Shelby, and I am committed to working with them and our other Gulf Coast colleagues to get the legislation passed in the Senate.

Supporting hunters and fishermen shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat issues. It should be an area where we can find common ground. That’s why I was pleased to see the SHARE Act pass the House with bipartisan support by a vote of 242-161.

Let’s work together to make life easier for sportsmen all across the country and ensure that family traditions of hunting and fishing can continue for decades to come.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.