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Policy Corner Brief: DECEMBER 2023

Policy Corner Brief: DECEMBER 2023

Policy Corner Brief: DECEMBER 2023

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY

Policy Corner Brief: DECEMBER 2023

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
‘‘

MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE PASSES COMMERCIAL GUIDING PACKAGE AFTER NEARLY DECADE-LONG EFFORT

ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS

Why It Matters: Hunting and fishing are societal pillars in Michigan that have significant economic impacts. This legislative package serves to increase consumer confidence when contracting a hunting or fishing guide to pursue the State’s storied fish and wildlife species, while simultaneously increasing revenue and reporting data for the state’s fish and wildlife agency.

Highlights:

  • After a late-night vote on November 9th, the Michigan Senate gave final approval to a bill package that will improve the commercial hunting and fishing guiding industry in Michigan.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has supported the passage of this guiding framework alongside in-state partners in a coordinated, multi-year effort, providing written and oral testimony to policymakers throughout multiple legislative sessions.
  • Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator John Cherry, sponsor of one of the bills in the package, was instrumental in getting the legislation across the finish line.

After nearly a decade of work, a regulatory framework for commercial hunting and fishing guides in the Great Lakes State now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting a signature. The legislative package, Senate Bills 103, 104, and 105, would create new revenue streams and install reporting requirements designed to better fund and inform the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to carry out its mission of managing the State’s public trust fish and wildlife resources.

Under the framework, commercial hunting and fishing guides will be required to purchase a three-year guiding license for a total of $150, which will provide additional support for the Michigan DNR through the unique “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding. The legislation’s reporting requirements will supply the DNR with critical data on harvest success and will allow the agency to make better science-based management decisions.

Michigan enjoys a robust hunting and fishing tradition, and according to recent in-state estimates released by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), hunting and fishing in Michigan generate more than $11.2 billion annually from gear purchases, lodging, dining, and more – all while simultaneously supporting more than 171,000 jobs. CSF and its partners, including MUCC, contend that this guiding framework will serve to improve the experience delivered by guides, increase consumer confidence, and thereby strengthen the state’s hunting and fishing industry.

CSF is proud to have supported this package of bills throughout the legislative process and will continue to support legislative opportunities that benefit hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers.

States Involved: MI

 

 

SOUTH CAROLINA PROPOSES NEW PUBLIC LAND HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: Lack of access is one of the biggest issues facing sportsmen and women today and is reported as a primary reason that lapsed hunters and anglers no longer hunt or fish. Despite its relatively small size compared to other Southeastern states, South Carolina offers abundant access to public land hunting opportunities. With the addition of new Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), opportunities for sportsmen and women to enjoy the time-honored tradition of hunting continues to grow.

Highlights:

  • With the sportsmen and women of the Palmetto State currently enjoying fall hunting seasons, they may have new public land hunting opportunities coming soon.
  • On October 27, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources proposed a regulation that added new hunting opportunities on four WMAs, among other changes.
  • The four WMAs that would experience a significant expansion of hunting opportunities are Bobwhite Hills WMA, Coosawhatchie WMA, Ramsey Grove WMA, and Santee Island WMA.

Providing new access opportunities benefits hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts. The R3 movement is critical to the continuation of our hunting heritage since hunter participation has been generally declining since the 1980s, in part, due to lack of access. In addition to playing a critical role in the R3 effort, new public access opportunities for hunters contribute important conservation dollars through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding that, among other sources, supports the management of WMAs and the public trust resources that many hunters enjoy.

Below is a summary of the proposed changes:

  • Bobwhite Hills WMA – Add archery deer hunts, quail hunts, small game hunts, and still hunts for deer;
  • Coosawhatchie WMA – Add archery deer hunts, dove hunts, quail hunts, small game hunts, and still hunts for deer;
  • Ramsey Grove WMA – Add still hunts for deer;
  • Santee Island WMA – Add still hunts for hogs;
  • Category I Designated Waterfowl Area – Add Ramsey Grove WMA;
  • Category II Designated Waterfowl Area – Add Coosawhatchie WMA, Francis Marion National Forest, and Santee Island WMA;
  • Waterfowl hunting will be permitted Monday – Saturday on Francis Marion National Forest, Wednesday – Saturday mornings on Coosawhatchie WMA, and Monday – Saturday on Santee Island WMA; and
  • Ramsey Grove WMA waterfowl hunts are designated as youth or mobility impaired only.

Public comments may be directed to Emily Cope, Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Post Office Box 167, Colombia, SC 29202, no later than November 27, 2023.

States Involved: SC

 

 

HOUSE CSC CO-CHAIR INTRODUCES COMPREHENSIVE OUTDOOR RECREATION PACKAGE

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why it matters: Our nation’s vast network of federal public lands and water provide significant recreational opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women. The EXPLORE Act recognizes the importance of federal public lands for sportsmen and women by seeking to increase public access, modernize public land visitation data, and conserve important water systems for anglers and boaters.

Highlights:

  • On November 29, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Bruce Westerman introduced the bipartisan Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act (R. 6492).
  • A day later, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on the EXPLORE Act.
  • This legislation, which will bolster access for sportsmen and women and other users of public lands and waters, is strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).

Last week, CSC Co-Chair and Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Bruce Westerman, introduced the strongly bipartisan EXPLORE Act. The day after introduction, the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing on this important legislation.

While the EXPLORE Act contains many provisions of importance to sportsmen and women, CSF is particularly excited to see language that closely mirrors the Range Access Act (H.R. 1614). Specifically, this language will require the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to have a minimum of one free and public target shooting range in each of the respective districts. By providing dedicated, established target ranges, this legislation will improve opportunities to recycle spent ammunition and mitigate waste and pollution at non-designated ranges on USFS and BLM lands.

The EXPLORE Act will also provide assistance to federal agencies to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a serious threat to native aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Once established, aquatic invasive species are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate, and significant resources must be invested annually on population management. Preventing harmful introductions before they occur is the most effective means to avoid the risk aquatic nuisance species present. For example, Zebra mussels alone cause $300–$500 million in damages annually to power plants, water systems, and industrial water intakes in the Great Lakes Region.

Furthermore, this legislation includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts for the general public. Specifically, the Improved Recreation Visitation Data section directs certain federal land management agencies to capture various recreation visitation data. This section also establishes a real-time data pilot program to make available to the public real-time or predictive visitation data for federal lands, helping sportsmen and women with their trip planning efforts.

CSF thanks CSC Co-Chair and Chairman Westerman for leading the EXPLORE Act and looks forward to working him to see this legislation signed into law.

 

 

LAST TWO STATES WITH SUNDAY HUNTING PROHIBITIONS SEE CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why It Matters: On November 28, 2023, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted testimony in support of a suite of House and Senate Bills sent to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources that attempt to offer compromise Sunday Hunting roll backs to outright repeal of the ban . A suite of House and Senate Bills,  HB 800HB 912HB 920 – authored by MA Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David Vieria, and SB 500 As one of two remaining states in the country with outright  prohibitions on Sunday Hunting, the passage of these Bills would allow Massachusetts’s sportsmen and women the long overdue opportunities and enjoyment of full weekend hunting, should they pass.. Meanwhile, in October of this year, the Maine Supreme Court took up a filed lawsuit challenging Maine’s Sunday Hunting ban based on the argument that Maine’s “Right to Food” amendment is violated by the prohibition, during an educational Court Tour at high schools across the state.

Highlights:

  • On November 28, 2023, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted testimony in support of a suite of House and Senate Bills sent to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources that attempt to offer compromise Sunday Hunting roll backs to outright repeal of the ban.
  • Currently, hunters are the only constituency in Massachusetts and Maine prohibited from participating in their pursuits on Sundays. All other outdoor enthusiasts are permitted to access public and private lands for their enjoyment to include anglers and recreational shooters.
  • HB 800 – An Act Authorizing the Use of Bow and Arrows for Sunday Hunting, seeks to permit Sunday Hunting with the use of archery equipment.
  • HB 877 – An Act Relative to Sunday Hunting would repeal Section 57 of chapter 131 of the Massachusetts General Laws. A full repeal of the Sunday Hunting prohibition.
  • HB 912 – An Act Authorizing Deer Hunting on Sunday, if passed, allows for deer hunting specifically, on Sundays.
  • HB 920 – An Act Relative to Outdoor Heritage authored by MA Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David Vieria, would accomplish a number of issues in the Bay State. The reduction of discharge distances from 500 feet to 250 feet while archery hunting from an elevated position, would add cross bows to archery equipment, and would permit the hunting of deer on Sunday with the use of archery equipment.
  • SB 500 – An Act Relative to Outdoor Heritage, addresses Sunday hunting with the use of archery equipment, hunter harassment laws, as well as damage and vandalism to hunting equipment.
  • A Readfield, Maine couple, Virginia and Joel Parker, filed a lawsuit against Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MEIF&W). The suit argues the ban violates the Right to Food amendment to the Maine Constitution passed by Maine voters in 2021.
  • The Maine Supreme Court took up the case. No decision was rendered at the time, but the seven justices will render a decision later in a written opinion.

Outright Sunday Hunting bans remain in two states in the country, Massachusetts and Maine. HB 800, HB 877, HB 912, HB 920, SB 500 all address the issue of Sunday Hunting in the Bay State and as one of two remaining states in the country with outright prohibitions on Sunday Hunting, the passage of these Bills will allow Massachusetts’s sportsmen and women the long overdue opportunities and enjoyment of full weekend hunting. The hunting community is the only constituency specifically discriminated against with a Sunday Hunting ban. Anglers, birders, water sports enthusiasts, hikers, recreational shooters, and many other outdoor recreators are permitted to enjoy Sundays for their outdoor pursuits, the hunters of Massachusetts and Maine should enjoy the same opportunities. Sunday hunting is seen as a key component of providing the citizenry, particularly the youth, with more opportunities to engage in the sport, which will ultimately lead to more hunters in the years to come. In Maine, should the high court side with Virginia and Joel Parker of Readfield, the ban on Sunday Hunting could be repealed completely based on a Constitutional violation.

CSF looks forward to working with our Massachusetts Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in supporting these and other proposals that would positively impact Bay State sportsmen and women. CSF looks forward to Maine’s high court’s decision in the hopes Maine hunters will once again enjoy Sundays afield as they did before 1833.

States Involved: MA / ME

 

 

CSC LEADERS SEN. BOOZMAN AND REP. GRAVES’ DUCK STAMP MODERNIZATION ACT PASSES CONGRESS

December 12, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Building upon the previous Senate passage, moments ago, the House of Representatives passed the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023 (S. 788), a bipartisan bill to bring the federal duck stamp process into the 21st century by allowing for hunters to have an electronic federal duck stamp on their smart phone for the entirety of the hunting season. This legislation now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) would like to thank Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. John Boozman, the leader of the Senate bill, and CSC Vice-Chair Rep. Garret Graves, who led the House companion bill, for their commitment and support of America’s sportsmen and women.

Prior to the House floor vote of S. 788, the CSF worked with the bill sponsors in both chambers of Congress and key offices to help shepherd this bill, a CSF legislative priority, through the political process. As a result of CSF’s efforts, the House passed S. 788 on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, a sign of the wide-spread support of sportsmen and women. With Congressional passage behind us, CSF will be encouraging the White House to quickly sign this legislation into law. Once this legislation is signed into law, CSF will be working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement this legislation to ensure that this legislation is in effect for the 2024 – 2025 hunting season.

The Duck Stamp Modernization Act will simplify the Federal Duck Stamp process by allowing hunters to have an electronic duck stamp on their smartphone for the entirety of the hunting season. Under current law, when a hunter purchases an electronic Federal Duck Stamp (e-stamp), the e-stamp is only valid for a period of 45 days to allow for the actual stamp to be mailed. Once the actual stamp is received by the e-stamp purchaser, the actual stamp must be signed by the respective hunter across the face of the stamp and be in the hunter’s possession while afield. However, this legislation will remove the 45-day validation period and make the electronic stamp valid for the entirety of the hunting season. To ensure the continuance and integrity of the Federal Duck Stamp art contest, a longstanding tradition for waterfowlers and other bird enthusiasts alike, S. 788 will ensure that purchasers of e-stamps still receive the actual stamp in the mail. Specifically, the legislation will provide that actual stamps will be mailed to purchasers from March 10 to June 30.

“CSF extends our thanks to CSC Leaders Sen. Boozman and Rep. Graves for their efforts to see the Duck Stamp Modernization Act pass Congress in short fashion. It is time that hunters no longer have to worry if their actual stamp will arrive in the mail prior to their e-stamp expiring,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “This legislation is a common-sense, bipartisan effort that helps simplify antiquated processes for sportsmen and women.”

Over the coming days, CSF will be working with the Administration to get this legislation signed into law and ultimately implemented for the 2024 – 2025 hunting season.

 

 

STATE SPORTSMEN-LEGISLATORS CELEBRATE TWO DECADES OF THE NATION’S PREMIER STATE LEGISLATIVE SUMMIT

Washington, D.C. – December 8, 2023 – Earlier this week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted the 20th Annual National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Sportsman-Legislator Summit in the vibrant coastal town of Dewey Beach, Delaware. Fittingly hosted in the First State to ratify the constitution of the United States, CSF proudly celebrated two decades of the NASC Summit by continuing to make history in such a noteworthy and spirited state.

The conference, which is CSF’s premier state legislative event, provided an immersive 4-day experience featuring speakers from the NASC Executive Council, state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation policy organizations, outdoor industry partners, and more. Beyond the focused policy discussion, the Summit also provided an opportunity for attendees to participate in a variety of hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping field demonstrations and activities.  As the ONLY national conference for state legislators dedicated to advancing America’s hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping heritage, this year’s theme was: From Sea to Sea: A Nationwide Commitment to America’s Sporting-Conservation Future.

“This Summit is the most important time of the year for sportsman-legislators, providing an opportunity to not only share policy challenges and successes from their states, but also to learn new strategies to help ensure there is a future for our time-honored traditions across the country,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “This year, CSF celebrated two decades of the NASC Summit. Together we dove into some of the most important issues facing the sportsmen’s community and we plan to keep working to provide this opportunity for countless decades to come.”

Moving across the country from the Pacific Northwest to New England, the NASC Sportsman-Legislator Summit is an unparalleled occasion to network and engage with like-minded conservationists from all around the United States.  First held in 2004 in Lake Whitney, Texas the Summit has grown substantially over the last twenty years and will continue to do so, as advocating for our ability to get outdoors becomes increasingly important every year. From past NASC Executive Council members to state fish and wildlife agency directors and staff, to first time attendee legislators, the room was filled with over 200 dedicated conservationists all committed to America’s sporting-conservation future.

“When we set out to establish the NASC summit, we were focused on creating a unique opportunity for collaboration, synergy, and creativity,” said past Executive Council President Senator Robin Webb, founding member of NASC. “To see our vision come to fruition and to watch the significant growth of the NASC Summit is not only fulfilling, but also inspiring.”

Topics covered at this year’s event included, but were not limited to, developing future conservation leaders, trapping as an essential wildlife management tool, reimbursement for free licenses, right to hunt and fish constitutional amendments, and so much more. In addition to educational sessions, regional breakouts, and Executive Council meetings, the Summit also featured group demonstrations, an auction and raffle, outdoor sporting activities, and an awards ceremony.

Keynote speakers for this year’s event included Tom Opre, Shepherds of Wildlife Society; Mark Duda, Responsive Management; and Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, Haas Outdoors / Mossy Oak.

On the final night, attendees celebrated two decades of the NASC Summit, recognized achievements made for sportsmen and women and looked ahead at what the future will hold. NASC Executive Council President Jeff Goley took to the stage to set attendee’s sights on what the future looks like for sportsmen and women and the location of the 2024 NASC Summit was announced: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“The future of the NASC Sportsman-Legislator Summit is certainly a bright one, and events like these have never been more important,” said current Executive Council President Representative Goley. “As the world seems to grow further out of touch with our time-honored traditions, it’s important that we continue to work together and build connections across party lines. The NASC Summit is exactly the place to do that.”

During the Dinner & Awards Ceremony, the CSF States Program Team presented awards to individual legislators and groups who had contributed to the advancement of conservation policy and the furtherance of the goals of the NASC network.

Award Recipients included:

  • NASC Regional Heritage Award
    • Northeast – Sen. Jack Bailey (MD)
    • Southeast – Rep. Bobby Cox (SC)
    • Midwest – Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (AR)
  • Caucus Inception Award
    • Hawaii Legislative Outdoor Heritage Caucus, as the 50thstate to join the NASC network in December 2022.
  • Friends of NASC Awards
    • Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
    • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • State Agency of the Year
    • Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
  • State Caucus Partner of the Year
    • Nebraska Sportsmen’s Foundation
  • Outgoing EC Member Awards:
    • Bob Freeman (TN)
    • Casey Snider (UT)
  • Brad Rowse Award:
    • Ladd Johnson

CSF would like to thank all the sponsors who made the 20th Annual NASC Sportsman-Legislator Summit possible including Title Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops; Cabela’s; Ducks Unlimited; International Order of T. Roosevelt; National Shooting Sports Foundation; Outdoor Sportsman Group; Richard Childress Racing; Safari Club International; and Vista Outdoor, Inc.

 

 

NEW SPORTSMEN’S CAUCUS LEADERS ADDED IN VIRGINIA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JOHN CULCLASURE

Why It Matters: Representing the interests of hunters and anglers of the Commonwealth at the Virginia General Assembly, Delegate Carr and Delegate Fowler bring over two decades of combined legislative experience to the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. Delegate Carr and Delegate Fowler’s commitment to protecting and advancing the interests of sportsmen and women will be critical to carrying on Virginia’s sporting traditions for future generations.

Highlights:

  • This month, Delegate Betsy Carr and Delegate Buddy Fowler were confirmed as the new Co-Chairs of the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus).
  • Delegate Carr and Delegate Fowler take over the leadership positions on the Caucus from Delegate James Edmunds and Senator Emmett Hanger who did not seek reelection in 2023.
  • Delegate Carr, a Democrat, and Delegate Fowler, a Republican, will lead meetings and guide policy priorities for the bipartisan, bicameral Caucus.

Delegates Carr and Delegate Fowler are longtime members of the Caucus and regularly attend the weekly policy meetings that the Caucus holds during session. Delegate Fowler has also twice attended the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Annual Sportsman-Legislator Summit. Delegate Carr and Delegate Fowler are also strong supporters of pro-sportsmen policy, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is excited to work with them to grow the Caucus and advance policies that increase access and opportunity for Virginia’s hunters and anglers.

In what is expected to be a busy legislative session, CSF anticipates seeing legislation in 2024 related to modern sporting rifles, suppressors, menhaden management, predator hunting, hunting with hounds, trapping, knife definitions, sportsmen’s access, and conservation funding. CSF looks forward to working with the Caucus and conservation partners to ensure that the voices of Virginia’s sportsmen and women are well represented at the statehouse.

CSF would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Delegate Edmunds and Senator Hanger for their years of leadership and outstanding service to the sportsmen and women of the Commonwealth.

States Involved: VA

Policy Corner Brief: DECEMBER 2023 This article is published in the issue.
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Policy Corner Brief: DECEMBER 2023

MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE PASSES COMMERCIAL GUIDING PACKAGE AFTER NEARLY DECADE-LONG EFFORT

ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS

Why It Matters: Hunting and fishing are societal pillars in Michigan that have significant economic impacts. This legislative package serves to increase consumer confidence when contracting a hunting or fishing guide to pursue the State’s storied fish and wildlife species, while simultaneously increasing revenue and reporting data for the state’s fish and wildlife agency.

Highlights:

  • After a late-night vote on November 9th, the Michigan Senate gave final approval to a bill package that will improve the commercial hunting and fishing guiding industry in Michigan.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has supported the passage of this guiding framework alongside in-state partners in a coordinated, multi-year effort, providing written and oral testimony to policymakers throughout multiple legislative sessions.
  • Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator John Cherry, sponsor of one of the bills in the package, was instrumental in getting the legislation across the finish line.

After nearly a decade of work, a regulatory framework for commercial hunting and fishing guides in the Great Lakes State now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting a signature. The legislative package, Senate Bills 103, 104, and 105, would create new revenue streams and install reporting requirements designed to better fund and inform the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to carry out its mission of managing the State’s public trust fish and wildlife resources.

Under the framework, commercial hunting and fishing guides will be required to purchase a three-year guiding license for a total of $150, which will provide additional support for the Michigan DNR through the unique “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding. The legislation’s reporting requirements will supply the DNR with critical data on harvest success and will allow the agency to make better science-based management decisions.

Michigan enjoys a robust hunting and fishing tradition, and according to recent in-state estimates released by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), hunting and fishing in Michigan generate more than $11.2 billion annually from gear purchases, lodging, dining, and more – all while simultaneously supporting more than 171,000 jobs. CSF and its partners, including MUCC, contend that this guiding framework will serve to improve the experience delivered by guides, increase consumer confidence, and thereby strengthen the state’s hunting and fishing industry.

CSF is proud to have supported this package of bills throughout the legislative process and will continue to support legislative opportunities that benefit hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers.

States Involved: MI

 

 

SOUTH CAROLINA PROPOSES NEW PUBLIC LAND HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: Lack of access is one of the biggest issues facing sportsmen and women today and is reported as a primary reason that lapsed hunters and anglers no longer hunt or fish. Despite its relatively small size compared to other Southeastern states, South Carolina offers abundant access to public land hunting opportunities. With the addition of new Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), opportunities for sportsmen and women to enjoy the time-honored tradition of hunting continues to grow.

Highlights:

  • With the sportsmen and women of the Palmetto State currently enjoying fall hunting seasons, they may have new public land hunting opportunities coming soon.
  • On October 27, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources proposed a regulation that added new hunting opportunities on four WMAs, among other changes.
  • The four WMAs that would experience a significant expansion of hunting opportunities are Bobwhite Hills WMA, Coosawhatchie WMA, Ramsey Grove WMA, and Santee Island WMA.

Providing new access opportunities benefits hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts. The R3 movement is critical to the continuation of our hunting heritage since hunter participation has been generally declining since the 1980s, in part, due to lack of access. In addition to playing a critical role in the R3 effort, new public access opportunities for hunters contribute important conservation dollars through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding that, among other sources, supports the management of WMAs and the public trust resources that many hunters enjoy.

Below is a summary of the proposed changes:

  • Bobwhite Hills WMA – Add archery deer hunts, quail hunts, small game hunts, and still hunts for deer;
  • Coosawhatchie WMA – Add archery deer hunts, dove hunts, quail hunts, small game hunts, and still hunts for deer;
  • Ramsey Grove WMA – Add still hunts for deer;
  • Santee Island WMA – Add still hunts for hogs;
  • Category I Designated Waterfowl Area – Add Ramsey Grove WMA;
  • Category II Designated Waterfowl Area – Add Coosawhatchie WMA, Francis Marion National Forest, and Santee Island WMA;
  • Waterfowl hunting will be permitted Monday – Saturday on Francis Marion National Forest, Wednesday – Saturday mornings on Coosawhatchie WMA, and Monday – Saturday on Santee Island WMA; and
  • Ramsey Grove WMA waterfowl hunts are designated as youth or mobility impaired only.

Public comments may be directed to Emily Cope, Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Post Office Box 167, Colombia, SC 29202, no later than November 27, 2023.

States Involved: SC

 

 

HOUSE CSC CO-CHAIR INTRODUCES COMPREHENSIVE OUTDOOR RECREATION PACKAGE

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why it matters: Our nation’s vast network of federal public lands and water provide significant recreational opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women. The EXPLORE Act recognizes the importance of federal public lands for sportsmen and women by seeking to increase public access, modernize public land visitation data, and conserve important water systems for anglers and boaters.

Highlights:

  • On November 29, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Bruce Westerman introduced the bipartisan Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act (R. 6492).
  • A day later, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on the EXPLORE Act.
  • This legislation, which will bolster access for sportsmen and women and other users of public lands and waters, is strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).

Last week, CSC Co-Chair and Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Bruce Westerman, introduced the strongly bipartisan EXPLORE Act. The day after introduction, the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing on this important legislation.

While the EXPLORE Act contains many provisions of importance to sportsmen and women, CSF is particularly excited to see language that closely mirrors the Range Access Act (H.R. 1614). Specifically, this language will require the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to have a minimum of one free and public target shooting range in each of the respective districts. By providing dedicated, established target ranges, this legislation will improve opportunities to recycle spent ammunition and mitigate waste and pollution at non-designated ranges on USFS and BLM lands.

The EXPLORE Act will also provide assistance to federal agencies to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a serious threat to native aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Once established, aquatic invasive species are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate, and significant resources must be invested annually on population management. Preventing harmful introductions before they occur is the most effective means to avoid the risk aquatic nuisance species present. For example, Zebra mussels alone cause $300–$500 million in damages annually to power plants, water systems, and industrial water intakes in the Great Lakes Region.

Furthermore, this legislation includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts for the general public. Specifically, the Improved Recreation Visitation Data section directs certain federal land management agencies to capture various recreation visitation data. This section also establishes a real-time data pilot program to make available to the public real-time or predictive visitation data for federal lands, helping sportsmen and women with their trip planning efforts.

CSF thanks CSC Co-Chair and Chairman Westerman for leading the EXPLORE Act and looks forward to working him to see this legislation signed into law.

 

 

LAST TWO STATES WITH SUNDAY HUNTING PROHIBITIONS SEE CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why It Matters: On November 28, 2023, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted testimony in support of a suite of House and Senate Bills sent to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources that attempt to offer compromise Sunday Hunting roll backs to outright repeal of the ban . A suite of House and Senate Bills,  HB 800HB 912HB 920 – authored by MA Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David Vieria, and SB 500 As one of two remaining states in the country with outright  prohibitions on Sunday Hunting, the passage of these Bills would allow Massachusetts’s sportsmen and women the long overdue opportunities and enjoyment of full weekend hunting, should they pass.. Meanwhile, in October of this year, the Maine Supreme Court took up a filed lawsuit challenging Maine’s Sunday Hunting ban based on the argument that Maine’s “Right to Food” amendment is violated by the prohibition, during an educational Court Tour at high schools across the state.

Highlights:

  • On November 28, 2023, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted testimony in support of a suite of House and Senate Bills sent to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources that attempt to offer compromise Sunday Hunting roll backs to outright repeal of the ban.
  • Currently, hunters are the only constituency in Massachusetts and Maine prohibited from participating in their pursuits on Sundays. All other outdoor enthusiasts are permitted to access public and private lands for their enjoyment to include anglers and recreational shooters.
  • HB 800 – An Act Authorizing the Use of Bow and Arrows for Sunday Hunting, seeks to permit Sunday Hunting with the use of archery equipment.
  • HB 877 – An Act Relative to Sunday Hunting would repeal Section 57 of chapter 131 of the Massachusetts General Laws. A full repeal of the Sunday Hunting prohibition.
  • HB 912 – An Act Authorizing Deer Hunting on Sunday, if passed, allows for deer hunting specifically, on Sundays.
  • HB 920 – An Act Relative to Outdoor Heritage authored by MA Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David Vieria, would accomplish a number of issues in the Bay State. The reduction of discharge distances from 500 feet to 250 feet while archery hunting from an elevated position, would add cross bows to archery equipment, and would permit the hunting of deer on Sunday with the use of archery equipment.
  • SB 500 – An Act Relative to Outdoor Heritage, addresses Sunday hunting with the use of archery equipment, hunter harassment laws, as well as damage and vandalism to hunting equipment.
  • A Readfield, Maine couple, Virginia and Joel Parker, filed a lawsuit against Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MEIF&W). The suit argues the ban violates the Right to Food amendment to the Maine Constitution passed by Maine voters in 2021.
  • The Maine Supreme Court took up the case. No decision was rendered at the time, but the seven justices will render a decision later in a written opinion.

Outright Sunday Hunting bans remain in two states in the country, Massachusetts and Maine. HB 800, HB 877, HB 912, HB 920, SB 500 all address the issue of Sunday Hunting in the Bay State and as one of two remaining states in the country with outright prohibitions on Sunday Hunting, the passage of these Bills will allow Massachusetts’s sportsmen and women the long overdue opportunities and enjoyment of full weekend hunting. The hunting community is the only constituency specifically discriminated against with a Sunday Hunting ban. Anglers, birders, water sports enthusiasts, hikers, recreational shooters, and many other outdoor recreators are permitted to enjoy Sundays for their outdoor pursuits, the hunters of Massachusetts and Maine should enjoy the same opportunities. Sunday hunting is seen as a key component of providing the citizenry, particularly the youth, with more opportunities to engage in the sport, which will ultimately lead to more hunters in the years to come. In Maine, should the high court side with Virginia and Joel Parker of Readfield, the ban on Sunday Hunting could be repealed completely based on a Constitutional violation.

CSF looks forward to working with our Massachusetts Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in supporting these and other proposals that would positively impact Bay State sportsmen and women. CSF looks forward to Maine’s high court’s decision in the hopes Maine hunters will once again enjoy Sundays afield as they did before 1833.

States Involved: MA / ME

 

 

CSC LEADERS SEN. BOOZMAN AND REP. GRAVES’ DUCK STAMP MODERNIZATION ACT PASSES CONGRESS

December 12, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Building upon the previous Senate passage, moments ago, the House of Representatives passed the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023 (S. 788), a bipartisan bill to bring the federal duck stamp process into the 21st century by allowing for hunters to have an electronic federal duck stamp on their smart phone for the entirety of the hunting season. This legislation now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) would like to thank Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. John Boozman, the leader of the Senate bill, and CSC Vice-Chair Rep. Garret Graves, who led the House companion bill, for their commitment and support of America’s sportsmen and women.

Prior to the House floor vote of S. 788, the CSF worked with the bill sponsors in both chambers of Congress and key offices to help shepherd this bill, a CSF legislative priority, through the political process. As a result of CSF’s efforts, the House passed S. 788 on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, a sign of the wide-spread support of sportsmen and women. With Congressional passage behind us, CSF will be encouraging the White House to quickly sign this legislation into law. Once this legislation is signed into law, CSF will be working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement this legislation to ensure that this legislation is in effect for the 2024 – 2025 hunting season.

The Duck Stamp Modernization Act will simplify the Federal Duck Stamp process by allowing hunters to have an electronic duck stamp on their smartphone for the entirety of the hunting season. Under current law, when a hunter purchases an electronic Federal Duck Stamp (e-stamp), the e-stamp is only valid for a period of 45 days to allow for the actual stamp to be mailed. Once the actual stamp is received by the e-stamp purchaser, the actual stamp must be signed by the respective hunter across the face of the stamp and be in the hunter’s possession while afield. However, this legislation will remove the 45-day validation period and make the electronic stamp valid for the entirety of the hunting season. To ensure the continuance and integrity of the Federal Duck Stamp art contest, a longstanding tradition for waterfowlers and other bird enthusiasts alike, S. 788 will ensure that purchasers of e-stamps still receive the actual stamp in the mail. Specifically, the legislation will provide that actual stamps will be mailed to purchasers from March 10 to June 30.

“CSF extends our thanks to CSC Leaders Sen. Boozman and Rep. Graves for their efforts to see the Duck Stamp Modernization Act pass Congress in short fashion. It is time that hunters no longer have to worry if their actual stamp will arrive in the mail prior to their e-stamp expiring,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “This legislation is a common-sense, bipartisan effort that helps simplify antiquated processes for sportsmen and women.”

Over the coming days, CSF will be working with the Administration to get this legislation signed into law and ultimately implemented for the 2024 – 2025 hunting season.

 

 

STATE SPORTSMEN-LEGISLATORS CELEBRATE TWO DECADES OF THE NATION’S PREMIER STATE LEGISLATIVE SUMMIT

Washington, D.C. – December 8, 2023 – Earlier this week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted the 20th Annual National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Sportsman-Legislator Summit in the vibrant coastal town of Dewey Beach, Delaware. Fittingly hosted in the First State to ratify the constitution of the United States, CSF proudly celebrated two decades of the NASC Summit by continuing to make history in such a noteworthy and spirited state.

The conference, which is CSF’s premier state legislative event, provided an immersive 4-day experience featuring speakers from the NASC Executive Council, state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation policy organizations, outdoor industry partners, and more. Beyond the focused policy discussion, the Summit also provided an opportunity for attendees to participate in a variety of hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping field demonstrations and activities.  As the ONLY national conference for state legislators dedicated to advancing America’s hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping heritage, this year’s theme was: From Sea to Sea: A Nationwide Commitment to America’s Sporting-Conservation Future.

“This Summit is the most important time of the year for sportsman-legislators, providing an opportunity to not only share policy challenges and successes from their states, but also to learn new strategies to help ensure there is a future for our time-honored traditions across the country,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “This year, CSF celebrated two decades of the NASC Summit. Together we dove into some of the most important issues facing the sportsmen’s community and we plan to keep working to provide this opportunity for countless decades to come.”

Moving across the country from the Pacific Northwest to New England, the NASC Sportsman-Legislator Summit is an unparalleled occasion to network and engage with like-minded conservationists from all around the United States.  First held in 2004 in Lake Whitney, Texas the Summit has grown substantially over the last twenty years and will continue to do so, as advocating for our ability to get outdoors becomes increasingly important every year. From past NASC Executive Council members to state fish and wildlife agency directors and staff, to first time attendee legislators, the room was filled with over 200 dedicated conservationists all committed to America’s sporting-conservation future.

“When we set out to establish the NASC summit, we were focused on creating a unique opportunity for collaboration, synergy, and creativity,” said past Executive Council President Senator Robin Webb, founding member of NASC. “To see our vision come to fruition and to watch the significant growth of the NASC Summit is not only fulfilling, but also inspiring.”

Topics covered at this year’s event included, but were not limited to, developing future conservation leaders, trapping as an essential wildlife management tool, reimbursement for free licenses, right to hunt and fish constitutional amendments, and so much more. In addition to educational sessions, regional breakouts, and Executive Council meetings, the Summit also featured group demonstrations, an auction and raffle, outdoor sporting activities, and an awards ceremony.

Keynote speakers for this year’s event included Tom Opre, Shepherds of Wildlife Society; Mark Duda, Responsive Management; and Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, Haas Outdoors / Mossy Oak.

On the final night, attendees celebrated two decades of the NASC Summit, recognized achievements made for sportsmen and women and looked ahead at what the future will hold. NASC Executive Council President Jeff Goley took to the stage to set attendee’s sights on what the future looks like for sportsmen and women and the location of the 2024 NASC Summit was announced: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“The future of the NASC Sportsman-Legislator Summit is certainly a bright one, and events like these have never been more important,” said current Executive Council President Representative Goley. “As the world seems to grow further out of touch with our time-honored traditions, it’s important that we continue to work together and build connections across party lines. The NASC Summit is exactly the place to do that.”

During the Dinner & Awards Ceremony, the CSF States Program Team presented awards to individual legislators and groups who had contributed to the advancement of conservation policy and the furtherance of the goals of the NASC network.

Award Recipients included:

  • NASC Regional Heritage Award
    • Northeast – Sen. Jack Bailey (MD)
    • Southeast – Rep. Bobby Cox (SC)
    • Midwest – Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (AR)
  • Caucus Inception Award
    • Hawaii Legislative Outdoor Heritage Caucus, as the 50thstate to join the NASC network in December 2022.
  • Friends of NASC Awards
    • Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
    • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • State Agency of the Year
    • Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
  • State Caucus Partner of the Year
    • Nebraska Sportsmen’s Foundation
  • Outgoing EC Member Awards:
    • Bob Freeman (TN)
    • Casey Snider (UT)
  • Brad Rowse Award:
    • Ladd Johnson

CSF would like to thank all the sponsors who made the 20th Annual NASC Sportsman-Legislator Summit possible including Title Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops; Cabela’s; Ducks Unlimited; International Order of T. Roosevelt; National Shooting Sports Foundation; Outdoor Sportsman Group; Richard Childress Racing; Safari Club International; and Vista Outdoor, Inc.

 

 

NEW SPORTSMEN’S CAUCUS LEADERS ADDED IN VIRGINIA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JOHN CULCLASURE

Why It Matters: Representing the interests of hunters and anglers of the Commonwealth at the Virginia General Assembly, Delegate Carr and Delegate Fowler bring over two decades of combined legislative experience to the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. Delegate Carr and Delegate Fowler’s commitment to protecting and advancing the interests of sportsmen and women will be critical to carrying on Virginia’s sporting traditions for future generations.

Highlights:

  • This month, Delegate Betsy Carr and Delegate Buddy Fowler were confirmed as the new Co-Chairs of the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus).
  • Delegate Carr and Delegate Fowler take over the leadership positions on the Caucus from Delegate James Edmunds and Senator Emmett Hanger who did not seek reelection in 2023.
  • Delegate Carr, a Democrat, and Delegate Fowler, a Republican, will lead meetings and guide policy priorities for the bipartisan, bicameral Caucus.

Delegates Carr and Delegate Fowler are longtime members of the Caucus and regularly attend the weekly policy meetings that the Caucus holds during session. Delegate Fowler has also twice attended the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Annual Sportsman-Legislator Summit. Delegate Carr and Delegate Fowler are also strong supporters of pro-sportsmen policy, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is excited to work with them to grow the Caucus and advance policies that increase access and opportunity for Virginia’s hunters and anglers.

In what is expected to be a busy legislative session, CSF anticipates seeing legislation in 2024 related to modern sporting rifles, suppressors, menhaden management, predator hunting, hunting with hounds, trapping, knife definitions, sportsmen’s access, and conservation funding. CSF looks forward to working with the Caucus and conservation partners to ensure that the voices of Virginia’s sportsmen and women are well represented at the statehouse.

CSF would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Delegate Edmunds and Senator Hanger for their years of leadership and outstanding service to the sportsmen and women of the Commonwealth.

States Involved: VA

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