FAIRBANKS (AP) -- If the federal government closes one area to hunting, it should open another, says Rep. Don Young, who has introduced a bill to make that the law.
Young, R-Alaska, and two other representatives introduced the Hunting Heritage Protection Act last week. It is scheduled for a hearing before the House Resources Committee, which Young chairs, on July 20.
The act would establish a ''no net loss'' policy for hunting opportunities on federal land. It also would create a council to monitor decisions by federal agencies that affect hunting.
The idea came from a group of about 70 hunting groups, led by the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America. They petitioned President Clinton to improve hunting opportunities on federal land.
The administration didn't respond, so the groups took the idea to Congress, said WLFA spokesman Doug Jeanneret.
Jeanneret said the legislation is intended to stop the loss of federal hunting lands. He cited Clinton's recent creation of several national monuments in Western states.
The bill's proposed ''no net loss'' policy would not apply to temporary closures designed to protect wildlife populations, Jeanneret said. Rather, it would affect only permanent designations, he said.
Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, said his group has yet to see a copy of the bill but would likely oppose the measure ''strenuously.''
''There's no threat to hunting on the federal level,'' Pacelle said. ''This is a response to a theoretical problem.''
But Jeanneret noted that a few years ago the Humane Society and other groups ''were quite successful in getting some legislation that would severely restrict and ban hunting on national wildlife refuges.''
That bill actually was stopped in the last stages of the legislative process. The close call, Jeanneret said, prompted hunters to put their efforts behind a successful reform of the national wildlife refuge system rules.
Those new rules allow refuge managers to close refuges to hunting, ''but you have to go through a process and show why hunting is not a compatible use,'' he said. ''We had no problem with that.''
''This is similar, but obviously it's geared to other federal lands,'' Jeanneret said.
Melanie Griffin, of the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C., said her group hasn't taken a position on the legislation. But Griffin said the bill doesn't have much chance of passage this session, given that there are only about 30 actual legislative days left.
Jeanneret said he has no illusions about that. ''We know it's going to be tough,'' he said. ''But you need to plant the seed and get people on board.''
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