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Recovering America's Wildlife Act clears Senate committee; Other news from the outdoors

U.S. Senate passes Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act.

Monarch butterflies
Monarch butterflies are among the at-risk species that would benefit from the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, proponents say.
File photo / Grand Forks Herald

RAWA clears Senate committee

WASHINGTON – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday voted to advance a markup, or amended, version of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act . The bill would amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to make $1.4 billion in supplemental funds available for at-risk wildlife species as determined by managers and tribal agencies in each state.

The National Wildlife Federation calls the bill – known as RAWA, for short – “the most significant wildlife-conservation legislation in half a century.” Thursday’s Senate committee vote brings it one step closer to becoming law.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was an original co-sponsor of the bill, along with 16 Democrats and 15 other Republicans, but withdrew his support Thursday because the markup of the bill gives individual states less of a say, according to a news release from Cramer’s office.

READ MORE OUTDOORS ISSUES COVERAGE:
The legislation bolsters CWD research and prioritizes funding for state and tribal wildlife agencies that have the highest incidence and greatest risk of CWD.

Cramer proposed an amendment to restore the bill back to its original form, but it was blocked, the news release indicated.

Kevin Cramer
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota)

“I got on this bill because it sent funding to state fish and wildlife agencies to proactively address and keep species off the Endangered Species Act list,” Cramer said in a statement. “It should be the goal of every conservationist. Instead we see from our federal bureaucracy and some of their stakeholders this desire to keep critters on the Endangered Species Act list. I’ve never understood it.

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“In its original form, it put an emphasis on states and what they can do. (States) are more responsive to their constituents and more nimble. Frankly, they’re more attuned to the situation in front of them. Instead, the bill in front of us reduces the money going to states and instead shifts it over to the very people who say ‘if you just give us more money, we can do better for you’ or ‘just give us more money and we can respond in a faster way.’ Forgive my skepticism and the skepticism of the people of North Dakota, but I am so tired of bureaucrats who say if you just give us more, we could help the landowners. I don’t care how fast they do it or how slowly they do it, the outcome is never right.”

– Herald staff report

Senate passes MAPLand Act

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land Act – MAPLand Act, for short – which would enhance recreational opportunities on public land by investing in modern mapping systems that allow outdoor enthusiasts to access the information they need using handheld GPS technology commonly found in smartphones.

The legislation advanced through the Senate under a procedural vote that allowed the unanimously supported bipartisan bill to move without objection. A companion bill cleared the House earlier this month in a bipartisan vote.

The legislation now awaits the signature of President Joe Biden.

The MAPLand Act directs federal land management agencies to standardize, compile and release digital map records to the public, including the open or closed status of roads and trails on public lands, vehicle-use regulations and boundary details.

The MAPLand Act has been a top priority for sportsmen and sportswomen across the country. Whit Fosburg, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, called the Senate passage “a huge win in ensuring that our public lands system is accessible to all Americans.”

Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said the legislation will address the problem of limited public access.

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“In a political climate that can be characterized by partisan rancor and discord, passage of a fundamentally bipartisan effort is worth celebrating,” Tawney said. “Here’s to unity and shared values in the name of access to our public lands, and here’s to the MAPLand Act becoming law.”

– Herald staff report

NDGF issues wildfire reminder

BISMARCK – Springtime is prime time for wildfires, and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking outdoor enthusiasts to be aware of ground conditions while out and about this spring.

An increase in human outdoor activity in spring, combined with dead ground vegetation and high winds, make this time of year highly susceptible to wildfires.

Because of highly variable weather patterns, North Dakota experiences a distinct spring fire season every year. With that in mind, it’s important to pay attention to the fire danger index, and to follow the appropriate measures.

In a news release, the Game and Fish Department said hunters and anglers should keep up with the daily rural fire danger index , issued by the National Weather Service to alert the public to conditions that may be conducive to accidental starting or spread of fires.

In addition, county governments have the authority to adopt penalties for violations of county restrictions related to burning bans. These restrictions apply regardless of the daily fire danger index and remain in place until each county’s commission rescinds the ban.

More info: NDResponse.gov .

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– Herald staff report

Did you know?

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with various partners will conduct prescribed burns this spring at Rydell and Glacial Ridge national wildlife refuges and other sites across northwest Minnesota.
  • A total of 2,081 student athletes from 96 high school teams are participating in the spring season of the North Dakota High School Clay Target League, organizers said this week in a news release. The nine-week season began in late March with two weeks of practice, and weekly competition begins April 17, with a final “fun week” in mid-May and tournaments in June.
  • The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is seeking applicants for about $100 million in grant funding for projects to aid Minnesota habitat restoration, preservation and enhancement through the Outdoor Heritage Fund. Requests are due to LSOHC by 4 p.m. May 26, and funds for approved projects signed into law during the 2023 Minnesota legislative session will be available July 1, 2023. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of four funds established under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment, which Minnesota voters passed in November 2008. The amendment established a dedicated sales tax increase of three-eighths of 1%. Info: www.lsohc.mn.gov .
  • Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, R-N.D., along with Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., introduced the Landowner Easement Rights Act in the U.S. Senate. The bill would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from entering into conservation easements with a term of more than 50 years. The bill also would give owners of existing easements the option to renegotiate, renew or buy out the easement, according to a news release from Cramer’s office. Reps. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., introduced companion legislation in the House.
  • According to a survey by the Dyrt, a popular camping app, record-high gas prices across the U.S. will affect plans of more than 60% of RV and other vehicle campers this year. The survey showed 23.6% of respondents planned to camp closer to home, while 19.7% said they would camp the same number of nights but drive to fewer destinations and do less sightseeing. Others said they would camp less – 10.3% slightly less and 6.9% a lot less. More info: www.thedyrt.com

– compiled by Brad Dokken 

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