Senate • GOP says measure opening access to public lands costs too much.
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Washington • A wide-ranging bill to give hunters and fishermen more access to public lands has stalled in the Senate after Republicans said it spends too much money.
Republicans supported opening lands for outdoorsmen and many other provisions in the bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, but GOP senators blocked the legislation Monday evening on a mostly party-line vote after Senate Budget Committee's top Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama objected to spending on conservation programs included in the bill. Democrats argued that the bill also raised money for those provisions.
The sportsmen's bill would increase land access and allow hunters to bring home as trophies 41 polar bears killed in Canada before the government started protecting polar bears as a threatened species. The legislation would also exclude ammunition and tackle from federal environmental laws that regulate lead, allow bow hunters to cross federal land where hunting isn't allowed, encourage federal land agencies to help states maintain shooting ranges, boost fish populations and protect animal habitat.
Ammunition and tackle that contain lead are now unregulated under federal toxic-substance laws. The bill would make it law that the Environmental Protection Agency could not regulate ammunition and tackle, leaving those decisions to states. Environmental groups say birds are killed by lead poisoning after eating the spent ammunition and fishing tackle.