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Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I rise to discuss the Sportsmen's Act. The Sportsmen's Act is a good piece of legislation. It is a piece of legislation where, quite frankly, it would be one of the few times in this body Democrats and Republicans could come together and actually do something that is good for this country and not play politics with it.
The outdoor traditions in this country are deep and are an important part of our heritage. That is why 2 years ago, when I became chair of the Sportsmen's Caucus, I made it a goal to do something, something significant, that would help this country's hunters and anglers.
This week we have an opportunity to play politics as usual or to get something done. This Sportsmen's Act is the biggest package of sportsmen's bills in a generation. It combines, as the majority leader said, nearly 20 different bills--all important to the sportsmen community.
These bills increase access for recreational hunting and fishing. They support land and species conservation. They protect our hunting and fishing rights. Most important, they take ideas from both sides of the political aisle. It is not about Democrats. This bill isn't about Republicans or Independents. This bill is about Americans and the great outdoors we all share as a nation.
This bipartisan bill is supported by 56 different conservation and wildlife groups, ranging from the Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation to the NRA. It earned their endorsement because it includes a wide range of responsible provisions that are important to sportsmen and women across America.
In my role as chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, sportsmen continually tell me about the importance of access to public lands. Right now there are 35 million acres of public land that sportsmen cannot access. That is why this bill requires 1.5 percent of the annual funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund set-asides to increase public land access, ensuring sportsmen across the country access to some of the best places to hunt and fish in this country.
This bill also reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. This voluntary initiative provides matching grants to landowners who set aside critical habitat for migratory birds such as ducks. Over the last 20 years, volunteers across America have completed more than 2,000 conservation projects and protected more than 26 million acres of habitat under this successful initiative. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act is a smart investment in both our lands and our wildlife, and it needs to be reauthorized, as this bill does.
My widely supported bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to reevaluate the price of duck stamps to keep up with inflation. Revenue from these duck stamps has been used to purchase or lease more than 6 million acres of wetlands and preserve a viable waterfowl population. This bill also funds new shooting ranges while encouraging Federal land agencies to cooperate with State and local authorities to maintain existing ranges.
This is a responsible bill that takes into account the needs of the entire sportsmen community. Some folks around Washington are asking: Why is this important? But hunting and fishing is a way of life in places such as Montana. One in three Montanans hunt big game, and over 50 percent of Montanans fish. Outdoor recreation contributed $646 billion in direct spending to the economy in this country just last year. Hunting and fishing is not just recreation, it is a critical part of our economy.
In Montana, hunting and fishing brings $1 billion a year to our economy, nearly as much as our State's cattle industry. It is big business. It drives and sustains jobs. With bow hunting season open and rifle hunting season opening in just a few days, this bill is as timely as ever.
The Sportsmen's Act of 2012 is balanced, it is bipartisan, and it is widely supported. It is also fiscally responsible. The bill has no cost.
I have been chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus for 2 years. In that time I have had folks from all over the country telling me why they love to hunt and fish. They have also told me how outdoor activities support our economy and create new jobs while sustaining old ones. But they have also told me about how much their outdoor heritage means to their families and about how concerned they are about losing those traditions.
Frankly, they have told me about how frustrated they are with Washington and how too many good ideas--ideas from both parties--get left behind because of political gridlock right here. By approving this sportsmen's package, we will conserve some of our most productive habitat, pass on our hunting and fishing traditions to future generations, and entrust the lands and water we share to them.
Sportsmen from across the West have been waiting for a bill such as this for a generation--a bill with widespread support that preserves our outdoor economy and secures our outdoor heritage for our children and grandchildren. I know it is getting close to election season, but we have time left.
The time we are working on is the taxpayers' dime, and I think we ought to get something done. Let's take some good Democratic ideas and some good Republican ideas and pass them. Let's actually do something for the 90 million sportsmen and women who reside in this country and build our economy. Now is the time.
We have an opportunity to take a bill that does good things for this country across the board that, quite frankly, if a vote was held on this bill today, I am confident would pass with a large bipartisan majority. But as long as we are going to play political games and as long as we are going to hold up legislation, we will never get to the point where we can do what is right by the American people.
I urge we get to work and get it done.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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