WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is hoping for swift action in Congress on a grab bag of initiatives in support of outdoorsmen.
The legislation, known as the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012, combines several bills promoting recreational hunting and fishing and conservation.
“There’s lots of good things all around the bill,” said Pryor, D-Ark.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation strongly supports the legislation, saying it would: set aside conservation funds to secure public access to public lands for hunting and fishing; encourage maintenance of shooting ranges on federal land; and exclude ammunition and fishing tackle from environmental regulations.
It would also allow hunters to purchase federal duck stamps on line — expanding nationwide a successful pilot program in Arkansas, Pryor said.
“The Sportsmen’s Act is a commonsense way we can increase Arkansans’ access to hunting and fishing while supporting critical habitat conservation throughout our state,” he said.
The legislation easily cleared two procedural hurdles in the Senate last week but faces another key test when lawmakers return to work on Monday.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., plans to raise a budget point of order against the bill because it authorizes spending in excess of caps established in 2011.
“This bill violates that agreement, and we need not do that,” Sessions said.
Proponents of the legislation need 60 votes to waive the point of order. They easily cleared that hurdle on two procedural votes last week that passed, 92-5 and 84-12. Pryor and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., supported the bill.
The Senate could finish the bill next week and begin negotiations with the House on a final version of the bill. The House passed a similar bill in April on a vote of 274-146. Reps. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, and Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, supported it.
With only a month to go in the legislative session, opponents are hoping that they can stall the action.
Gun Owners of America is urging its members to lobby against the bill, saying it would give the Obama administration power to seize private lands to protect aquatic habitats.
“The modest conservation gains allowed in the bill are totally offset by giving unelected bureaucrats the authority to steal land from hunters and private property owners,” the group said in a statement to its members.
Ross, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, hopes that a final bill can be hammered out before he leaves office in January.
“Passage of these important bills is crucial to the protection of America’s outdoor traditions and the advancement of the rights of hunters and anglers across the nation,” Ross said.