March 22, 2013 (Washington, DC) - On March 20, members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) re-introduced H.R. 686, the bipartisan "Protect Our Prairies Act." Reintroduced by CSC House Vice-Chair Tim Walz and CSC member Kristi Noem, H.R. 686 is sponsored by seven members of the CSC, including all four members of CSC House leadership: Co-Chairs, Rep. Bob Latta and Rep. Bennie Thompson and Vice-Chairs, Rep. Rob Wittman and Rep. Tim Walz.
In a March 20 Dear Colleague letter, CSC House leadership asked their fellow Caucus members to support the legislation, also known as "sodsaver," which encourages responsible land stewardship practices and preserves habitat for ducks, pheasants and other wildlife while saving the American taxpayer millions of dollars.
Jeff Crane, President of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) voiced support for H.R. 686. "This bipartisan legislation is the first in hopefully a series of bipartisan efforts led by the CSC to advance the interests of sportsmen and women. H.R. 686 conserves wildlife habitat and saves taxpayer dollars, while at the same time supporting the hunting and fishing traditions that are an integral part of our nation's economy."
This legislation would reduce crop insurance assistance for crops grown on native sod and certain grasslands converted to cropland for the first four years. By reducing crop insurance assistance so that is proportionate with the production capability of the land, rather than insuring it at the same rate as land that has been farmed for years, H.R. 686 could save taxpayers nearly $200 million over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office's estimate from the 112th Congress.
H.R. 686 secures essential wildlife habitat while also supporting local economies. Protecting native sod and grassland that are vital habitats for wildlife will help continue the success of the American System of Conservation Funding, a "user pays-public benefits" system. In addition, according to CSF's Sportsmen's Economic Impact Report, sportsmen and women spent over $90 billion in 2011, making our nation's sporting traditions a driving force for local economies.
"I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation that will cut spending and conserve critical wildlife habitat while allowing farmers to manage their lands as they see fit," said Representative Walz. "By working together and promoting common sense conservation practices we can protect critical wildlife habitat, support our farmers, and support the hunting and fishing industry that is an integral part of our state's economy."
The CSC leadership Dear Colleague letter concluded, "Simply put, this legislation not only promotes good conservation practices but it also saves money by reducing crop insurance assistance on native sod."