I have been a hunter all of my life. My father, who instilled in me a deep and abiding love of the outdoors, was my hero and my mentor. He’s the reason I now spend so much of my time working with young people who are interested in hunting or conservation. We are blessed in Wyoming with some of the finest hunting and fishing lands in the entire country. But it’s important that we protect them for future generations.
That’s why I was thrilled to see the U.S. Senate pass an historic public lands bill, 92 votes to 8, last week. There’s so much divisiveness in Washington on other issues, so it was wonderful to see folks from both sides of the aisle come together to protect our beautiful lands and sporting heritage. I hope Rep. Cheney continues that bipartisan spirit when the House takes up the bill next week.
That bill includes the important WILD Act, which was sponsored by our own Sen. John Barrasso. It promotes conservation, protects endangered species and helps manage invasive species. The public lands bill also includes provisions that increase hunting access and promote the construction of safe target shooting facilities on federal lands with the hopes of encouraging new participants to join the sporting community.
But the crown jewel of the bill is the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. That common-sense conservation program has helped support outdoor recreation projects from ball fields and boat ramps to wildlife habitat and hiking trails. Over the past five decades Wyoming has received over $132 million. The fund has supported hundreds of state and local parks including Glendo, Hot Springs and Keyhole state parks.
Wyoming’s outdoor recreation spaces attract three-quarters of a million people every year who hunt, fish, hike and camp. Research has found that outdoor recreation generates $5.6 billion in consumer spending in our state and supports 50,000 jobs. By supporting our outdoor spaces, the Land and Water Conservation fuels this robust sector of our economy.
It also helps support timber sector jobs by contributing money to the Forest Legacy program. That initiative protects working forests while at the same time enhancing wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation.
The Senate did its job and showed the American people that it can come together and act in the best interest of hunters and outdoor recreation. Now it’s time for the House to act. Again, I urge Rep. Cheney to support this legislation which is good for our economy, wildlife, public lands and — most importantly—our children.