Bipartisan Leadership of Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus Supports Journalists and Sportsmen Through Legislation

Challenges faced by individual journalists and small film crews, who need fair and equitable access to public lands to cover important issues and activities, are being addressed in the U.S. House of Representatives. On July 23, the bipartisan leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) introduced the Public Lands Filming Act (H.R. 2798) and H.R. 2799, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, two important pro-sportsmen’s bills for the 113th Congress.

"Thanks to the CSC, the Public Lands Filming Act in the House has bipartisan support," said Laurie Lee Dovey, CEO of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA). "It's critical legislation for journalists and the American public. There's also a bill in the Senate (S. 1335), introduced on July 18, 2013, by CSC member Sen. Lisa Murkowski, that addresses the filming-on-public-lands-issue, but few believe it will garner support from both sides of the aisle.

"POMA has worked hard on this issue for several years, by testifying before the House and Senate and helping to craft a reasonable solution. The relief provided in H.R. 2798 will save jobs, provide freelance journalists and small film crews fair access public lands, and ensure all Americans have access to complete coverage of important public-lands issues and outdoor recreation activities."

The House Public Lands Filming Act, which includes Co-Chairs Bob Latta (OH) and Bennie Thompson (MS) and Vice Co-Chair Rob Wittman (VA) as original cosponsors, makes a distinction on federal lands between a small film crew that would typically film an outdoor, hunting or fishing program and a major Hollywood production. By assessing an annual fee of $200 for commercial filming activities for any film crew of five persons or fewer on federal lands and waterways administered by the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Agriculture, federal public lands will be financially accessible for outdoor programming.

The current rules for filming and photographing on federal lands and waterways place a severe burden on individual journalists/small film crews wishing to participate in these activities on federal lands. This legislation will address the inequities, enforcement and process confusion that result from the current regulations.

In a statement to POMA, Congressman Latta said, "This common-sense legislation provides certainty and removes regulations that are currently placed on smaller film crews involved with a project on federal lands. It is essential that federal lands are accessible to these smaller film crews and thus accessible to the American public through their coverage and depiction of wildlife, conservation, and public lands issues."

Lawrence Keane, Senior Vice President, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation added, "We strongly support the policy and are working closely with the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus to bring about this needed and long overdue change in the law."

The SHARE Act, which includes CSC bipartisan Co-Chairs Representatives Bob Latta and Bennie Thompson and bipartisan Vice-Chairs Representatives Rob Wittman and Tim Walz as original cosponsors, permanently establishes the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee to advise the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on wildlife and habitat conservation, hunting and recreational shooting.

The Council advises the federal government – through the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture – about agency activities that benefit recreational hunting and wildlife resources, and activities that encourage partnership among the public, the sporting conservation community, the recreational shooting and hunting sports industry, wildlife conservation organizations, and federal and state governments. The Secretaries shall pay expenses of the Council that they determine to be reasonable and appropriate; and no additional funds will be appropriated for the creation of this Advisory Committee.

CSC Co-Chair Representatives Bob Latta emphasized his support for the SHARE Act: “Ensuring that sportsmen and sportswomen have an advisory capacity role across future Administrations is vital for all who enjoy the great outdoors throughout the nation to engage and provide consensus recommendations to federal agencies that will benefit from the Council’s vast experience and expertise. I am confident that this legislation will serve to the betterment of current and future generations of hunter-conservationists.”

“This legislation will ensure that sportsmen are able to provide first-hand knowledge of the wildlife and hunting issues to the federal government. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that this much needed legislation receives proper consideration in the House,” stated CSC Co-Chair Representative Bennie Thompson.

Both bills were identified as sportsmen’s legislative priorities agreed upon by the CSC House leadership for the 113th Congress, which were released at the July 10 breakfast briefing hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and Safari Club International (SCI).