From Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the west to Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the east, North Carolinians are passionate about the outdoors. In fact, more than 1.6 million sportsmen and women call North Carolina home. That’s nearly one in five of our residents, and I’m proud to represent each of them in the U.S. Senate as Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
In this role, I recently introduced the Sportsmen’s and Public Outdoor Recreation Traditions (SPORT) Act, a package of policies supported by Republicans and Democrats to expand access to federal public lands for hunters and anglers, conserve wildlife habitats, and reform regulations that prevent people from enjoying the outdoors.
Hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing are not only an integral part of North Carolina’s heritage, but these activities also benefit our state’s economy and create jobs. The SPORT Act is first and foremost about jobs because, as one study found, outdoor recreation supports 192,000 jobs and $430 million in retail sales for businesses and communities across North Carolina.
In recognition of the importance of these activities for North Carolina, I’ve included in the SPORT Act key programs for our state. For instance, my bill would reauthorize a cost-effective conversation law that has helped preserve nearly 70,000 acres of wildlife habitat in North Carolina.
The SPORT Act would also exempt sportsmen trust funds from across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration. The federal government collects excise taxes from hunters, anglers and sales of equipment, such as ammunition and fishing tackle, to build sportsmen trust funds. North Carolina and other states then receive the money to manage fisheries and wildlife habitats, open and maintain recreational areas, and provide hunting and boating safety education.
However, these funds that our state depends on to enhance outdoor recreation activities have been stuck in Washington instead of being put to good use in North Carolina. Our state is one of the best places in the country to fish and hunt, and we need to retain our sportsmen trust fund dollars to keep it that way. The SPORT Act would ensure North Carolina permanently retains these vital funds.
My SPORT Act includes a number of additional bills that would benefit North Carolina, including provisions that would improve access to existing federal public lands with restricted access for hunting, fishing and other recreational purposes; help states build and maintain public shooting ranges and promote firearm safety; and grant the Secretary of the Interior permanent ability to authorize states to issue electronic duck stamps.
I come from a family of lifelong hunters, and I’m committed to protecting and growing the time-honored traditions of sportsmen and women in our state. The SPORT Act combines the best ideas from Republicans and Democrats to enhance opportunities for hunting, fishing and shooting while strengthening our economy. I will continue to work with all stakeholders in North Carolina and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this legislation forward.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is a first term member of the Senate. The Democrat represents North Carolina and will seek a second term next year.