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Public Statements

Sportsmen's Heritage Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, H.R. 4089 deems all Federal land open for hunting and recreational shooting unless a closure is made by the head of the agency here in Washington. The authors of the legislation intended to exempt from the bill lands under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. I'm sure, I have it on good authority from them, from the authors, that this was their intention. However, as written, the bill only exempts national parks and national monuments. My amendment is a simple, technical correction that ensures all units of the National Park Service are included in the exemption.

The exemption language in title I is, I believe, unintentionally broad and not clear. The National Park System includes units that have a variety of designations--national seashores, national scenic trails, national battle fields, among others. The National Park System has units in urban areas, in rural areas, in suburban communities, in the East, in the West, in the center of our country.

And without this amendment, H.R. 4089 could potentially open for hunting the Paterson, New Jersey, Great Falls National Historic Park in the heart of Paterson, the third-largest city in my State. The bill could, as written, potentially allow hunting within Antietam or Manassas National Battlefields.

All units of the National Park System, like our national battlefields and military parks, are sacred ground and should be reserved for solemn contemplation of the sacrifices of our ancestors. My amendment would ensure that the policies of the National Park Service involving firearms in areas controlled by the National Park Service stay in place.

Now, some have suggested that the historic battle reenactments constitute recreational shooting, and this, my amendment, would, they say, prevent reenacting on battlefields. Maybe my good friend from Utah doesn't know the National Park Service policy.

It's important to note that current National Park Service policy, right now, prohibits ``battle reenactments and demonstrations of battle tactics that involve exchanges of fire between opposing lines or any other form of simulated warfare.'' I'm not aware of any problems that this sensible policy has caused.

It's important to note that there are National Park System units like Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in Washington State, I say to my friend, the chairman, or Craters of the Moon National Preserve in Idaho that allow hunting and recreational shooting. My amendment would not affect those policies. The hunting and recreational shooting could continue in those places.

I just want to emphasize, this is a technical amendment. I'm not getting at the merits for or against the bill overall. But should this bill proceed, it would be a big mistake to say that the hunting, the recreational shooting could take place in Gettysburg and Chincoteague and any number of other places that aren't intended.

Let's ensure that, in the hurry to open all Federal lands to hunting and recreational shooting, we don't carelessly open up to gunfire consecrated grounds like the Civil War battlefields, like the parks and beaches and forests of our national recreation areas.

I urge my colleagues to support this technical correction to the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HOLT. My amendment simply ensures that nothing in this act would force hunting in the National Park Service. I really don't understand what the chairman is talking about here, because where it is allowed, it would be allowed. Where it's not allowed, it would not be allowed. It is policy of the National Park Service not to allow reenactment of battles.

The battle reenactments and demonstrations of battle tactics that involve exchanges of fire between opposing lines, the taking of casualties, hand-to-hand combat, et cetera, are prohibited in all parks. Park Service employees can conduct demonstrations as part of their living history program. That's done now. It would be continued under this.

What this says is, under this legislation, were it to become law, a person who wants to hunt in Gettysburg Park can't do that unless the National Park Service policy allows it. That's all this says. It extends it to all facilities of the National Park Service, not just what was specified in the bill parks and monuments.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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