Weekly Columns

The Natural State provides plenty of opportunities for Arkansans to enjoy the great outdoors. Using our natural resources is a way of life for many Arkansas families who take advantage of the popular pastimes of fishing and hunting. These recreational sports attract a variety of visitors who take part in these time honored traditions and I know many game lovers are getting their gear ready as they take aim on the upcoming hunting seasons.

Hunting is more than just a chance to tag a buck or bag a couple ducks. It’s a huge boon to our state and federal economies. According to the latest Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Economic Impact Report, these outdoor enthusiasts are an economic powerhouse. In 2011, sportsmen and women were estimated to account for $90 billion in spending. Hunters alone accounted for $33.9 billion. This is comparable to the total 2011 revenues for Amazon.com.

The latest National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife – Associated Recreation showed that Arkansas hunters and anglers spend more than $1.4 billion a year. Sportsmen help drive the economy, supporting 28,000 Arkansas jobs, making it major economic contributor.

Sportsmen and women are also good stewards of the environment. According to the CSF report the excise taxes on fishing, hunting and shooting equipment, in addition to license fees which help support wildlife agencies and contributions to conservation programs, total nearly $3 billion a year.

I am committed to preserving the traditions of hunting and fishing. As a member of Congress who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, we are working on legislation that supports programs benefiting Arkansas wildlife through conservation efforts and preserving wetlands like those that make Arkansas a mecca for duck hunters throughout the world.

As we work to pass a new farm bill, the conservation title will be very important to Arkansas sportsmen. This legislation must continue to preserve our natural treasures for future generations while streamlining programs and saving taxpayers’ money in programs for public and private lands. Farmers and ranchers across Arkansas take advantage of opportunities to preserve wildlife habitat on private land. People and wildlife both depend on these voluntary initiatives. Balanced conservation efforts make Arkansas’s land, wetlands, forests, and waters available for the production of food, fiber, and energy, as well as opportunities for recreation.

Protecting the mixed use rights of sportsmen on public lands and working to defend the Second Amendment are also high on my priority list. That’s why I was proud to introduce legislation protecting this constitutional right on Army Corps of Engineers lands. Gun owners should be protected to exercise their right on federal land while enjoying the outdoors. As a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who protects the interests of sportsmen and women, I will continue to promote the rights of hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and other family oriented outdoor activities.

I understand the importance of hunting season to Arkansans. This pastime plays a special role in the lives of many of us and gives us the opportunity to join with friends and family to enjoy the outdoors and test our skills. I will continue working to protect our rights and natural resources so we can pass this tradition on to future Arkansans.