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Policy Corner Brief: JANUARY 2024

Policy Corner Brief: JANUARY 2024

Policy Corner Brief: JANUARY 2024

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY

Policy Corner Brief: JANUARY 2024

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
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PRESIDENT BIDEN SIGNS CSC LEADERS SEN. BOOZMAN, REP. GRAVES’ DUCK STAMP MODERNIZATION ACT INTO LAW

December 20, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Yesterday, President Biden signed S. 788, the Duck Stamp Modernization Act, into law, delivering a significant victory to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and waterfowl hunters across the nation.

CSF extends our appreciation to Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Leaders Co-Chairs Sens. John Boozman and Joe Manchin, CSC Vice-Chairs Sens. Roger Marshall and Angus King as well as CSC Vice-Chair Rep. Garret Graves and CSC Member Rep. Mike Thompson for spearheading this legislation.

The quick enactment of the Duck Stamp Modernization Act is a result of CSF’s ability to advocate for sportsmen and women across the nation. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives cleared S. 788 403-20 after the Senate passed the bill unanimously in July, a sign of the wide-spread support for efforts to modernize and improve the experiences of hunters across the nation. Now that the Duck Stamp Modernization Act is law, CSF is already at work to ensure that this legislation will be implemented in a timely manner, particularly in advance of 2024 – 2025 waterfowl hunting seasons, to allow for hunters to take advantage of this victory.

“At a time when there have been few bills signed into law, CSF is glad to see the leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus work collaboratively to secure the enactment of an important bill for sportsmen and women across the country,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “The strong votes in Congress and the enactment of this legislation only further demonstrates that our sporting traditions remain an area for bipartisan agreement, and CSF is proud to work alongside the CSC to promote the unmatched bipartisan support for our sporting traditions.”

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. Prior to the enactment of the Duck Stamp Modernization Act, when a hunter purchased an electronic Federal Duck Stamp (e-stamp), the e-stamp was only valid for a period of 45 days to allow for actual stamp to be mailed. Once the actual stamp was received, hunters were required to have a signed actual stamp on their possession while hunting. 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, 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 will now shift to working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure this legislation is implemented in a timely manner.

 

 

CLASSROOM TO CROSSHAIRS: MICHIGAN SEEKS TO INCLUDE HUNTER SAFETY IN EDUCATION CURRICULUM

ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS

Why It Matters: With hunter participation rates declining across the country, the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus enters 2024 with a partial fix on the docket: requiring that a model hunter safety course be created for schools to offer as an elective. Exposing students to firearm safety and hunting practices aims to recruit more young hunters into the fields of the Wolverine State, with the intent to invite newcomers on a lifelong stewardship of its storied wildlife species.

Highlights:

  • Senate Bill 664 was introduced by Michigan Legislative Caucus Co-Chair Senator Jon Bumstead, and its companion, House Bill 5334 was introduced by fellow Caucus member Representative Curt Vanderwall.
  • Together, the bills have nearly 70 bipartisan co-sponsors, as well as the support of both the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).
  • Advancing hunter education opportunities in schools is a policy priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). During the 2024 session, CSF will actively work with legislators and stakeholder partners to help guide these bills through the legislative process.

Introduced on the final day of Michigan’s 2023 legislative session by Senator Jon Bumstead, Co-Chair of the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and his fellow Caucus member Representative Curt Vanderwall, SB 664 and HB 5334 would require that the DNR and MDE collaboratively create a model firearm safety course for schools to voluntarily offer as an elective course.

The course would teach students proper usage and handling of firearms, safe cleaning and maintenance of firearms, different types of firearms, and safe hunting practices. Although firearms and ammunition will not be allowed into a school building during the instruction, the course will qualify as completing the state’s hunter safety requirement, which is one component needed to obtain a hunting license. In order to obtain a license, students will also need to complete a field day.

The bills, which are carried over into the 2024 legislative session, were respectively assigned to be heard in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture and the House Committee on Judiciary. Through the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, CSF will work with legislators to promote the passage of these important bills that seek to recruit newcomers to join us in our time-honored outdoor traditions.

States Involved: MI

 

 

NEW YEAR, NEW THREATS TO CONSERVATION FUNDING IN KENTUCKY

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: While hunting and fishing license exemptions for qualified individuals or groups are well-intentioned, they threaten conservation funding for state fish and wildlife agencies through both the direct loss of license sales and the loss of matching federal funds through the Pittman-Robertson (PR) and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux (DJ) Acts. State fish and wildlife agencies depend heavily on license sales to carry out their conservation missions that are critical to sportsmen and women and our time-honored traditions of hunting, fishing, and trapping.

Highlights:

  • In 2023, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 241, sponsored by Kentucky Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Chair Senator Robin Webb, which helped secure 54,000 acres of critical elk habitat in Southeast Kentucky and added “of five (5) or more acres” language to the resident owner of farmlands sport hunting or sport fishing license exemption.
  • With the 2024 Kentucky Legislative Session now underway, Senate Bill 5 seeks to remove the “of five (5) or more acres” language from the farmlands license exemption.
  • House Bill 106 would replace “owner of farmlands” with “landowner” and remove the “of five (5) or more acres” language from the farmlands license exemption. Also, House Bill 106 would exempt residents and authorized persons from having to obtain a fishing license when fishing in private ponds.
  • Additionally, Senate Bill 55 would remove “farmlands” from the farmlands license exemption and would also exempt residents and authorized persons from having to obtain a fishing license when fishing in private ponds.

While Kentucky is perhaps best known for horse racing and bourbon, the Bluegrass State also offers unrivaled hunting, fishing, and trapping opportunities. Whether you choose to watch the sunrise while bass fishing on the family farm or explore the ruggedness of the Daniel Boone National Forest while chasing spring turkeys, there are endless ways to enjoy our time-honored traditions.  Regardless of whether you pursue game on private or public land, the critical conservation dollars generated through the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding carries the same weight in the eyes of the state fish and wildlife agency. One of the key tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is that fish and wildlife are public trust resources managed by the state for the benefit of the public.

An acreage component for the current license exemption for farmlands in Kentucky clarifies who is exempt from licensing while striking a balance to protect conservation funding. The intent of adding “of five (5) or more acres” to the “farmlands” definition in SB 241 was to cut down on the number of people claiming the “farmlands” exemption. Similarly, the minimum acreage to qualify for “agricultural land” is ten acres.

Fishing license exemptions as broad as those outlined in Senate Bill 55 and House Bill 106 would impact a large number of license buyers which would negatively impact conservation funding for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Other Southeastern states handle fishing on private lands in a manner that protects conservation funding. For example, North Carolina offers a $100 Special Landholder and Guest Fishing License that allows the landholder and guests to fish their private waters without an additional license.

With conservation funding at the center of protecting our time-honored traditions, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will continue to work to protect conservation funding in the Commonwealth.

States Involved: KY

 

 

JEFF CRANE, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION, NAMED 2024 HSCF CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR

January 16, 2024 (Houston, TX) Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF) is pleased to announce Jeff Crane, President and CEO of Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), has been recognized as the 2024 Houston Safari Club Foundation Conservationist of the Year.

The HSCF Conservationist of the Year Award recognizes exceptional champions of conservation, either individuals or organizations, exemplifying a true servant’s heart for the outdoors. Award recipients are considered for their work related to education, advocacy, legislation, policy, environmental activities, and the protection and preservation of wildlife and habitat.

Jeff has been at the helm of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation for 19 years leading an elite team of federal and state policy experts. With more than 40 years of experience in on-the-ground natural resource management and policy expertise at the federal, state, and international levels, Jeff plays an integral role in promoting and advocating for the rights of hunters and anglers, America’s true conservationists. A life-long outdoorsman, Jeff spent five years working in the U.S. Congress and was instrumental in establishing the Maryland legislative sportsmen’s caucus prior to joining CSF. His passion and dedication to conservation extends beyond his current role at CSF having served as the Chairman of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council and Chairman of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, and currently serves as the Co-Chairman of Legislative Policy for the Alliance for America’s Fish & Wildlife.

“I am truly honored to be recognized as this year’s Conservationist of the Year and want to extend my deepest gratitude to Houston Safari Club Foundation for bestowing this award upon me. As a young child, I grew up learning to appreciate our natural resources and being able to work in a field I am so incredibly passionate about is a dream come true. Conservation is not just a term we use in the policy arena; it is a sense of pride all of us hunters and anglers embody knowing we are helping to protect our natural resources for current and future generations,” stated Jeff Crane, CSF President and CEO.

“HSCF is extremely proud to honor Jeff with this award. It is only a small token of thanks for the countless hours and numerous battles he has waged in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the hunters and anglers of America, to protect the future of hunting, fishing, habitat, and wildlife,” stated Joe Betar, HSCF Executive Director.

About Houston Safari Club Foundation
Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve the sport of hunting through education, conservation, and the promotion of our hunting heritage. HSCF has awarded 625 scholarships totaling $2.8 million dollars. HSCF conducts youth outdoor education programs, career training, hunter education and field experiences throughout the year. HSCF has provided over $4 million in grants for hunter-funded wildlife, habitat and various conservation initiatives. HSCF is an independent organization, is not affiliated with Safari Club International (SCI) or its affiliates and is not a chapter or affiliate of any other organization. Visit our website at wehuntwegive.org or call 713.623.8844 for more information. HSCF. We Hunt. We Give.

About Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Founded in 1989, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is the informed authority across outdoor issues and serves as the primary conduit for influencing public policy. Working with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC), and the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), CSF gives a voice to hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers on Capitol hill and throughout state capitols advocating on vital outdoor issues that are the backbone of our nation’s conservation legacy. For more information on CSF’s policy work, visit www.congressionalsportsmen.org.

 

 

HEN ACT WOULD BOOST WATERFOWL POPULATIONS ACROSS THE NATION

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: With declining wetland habitats, severe drought, increased predation, and other challenges, waterfowl populations are not as robust as waterfowl hunters and others would like to see. For example, mallard ducks are down 23% from their long-term average, a sign of the struggle associated with breeding success. However, there are well-established practices such as building hen houses that can deliver meaningful results for waterfowl and waterfowl hunters.

Highlights:

  • A few weeks ago, Rep. Michelle Fischbach (MN) along with Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Mike Thompson (CA) and Doug LaMalfa (CA) introduced R. 6854, the Habitat Enhancement Now (HEN) Act.
  • This bipartisan legislation, which is strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), would establish two grant programs for a total of $3 million annually for a period of 5 years to bolster the breeding success of waterfowl across the nation.
  • Specifically, the legislation will establish a grant program for both the state of California and the prairie pothole region to build hen houses and to improve other important breeding resources for waterfowl.

In late December, Representative Michelle Fischbach as well as CSC Members Representatives Mike Thompson and Doug LaMalfa introduced the Habitat Enhancement Now Act, a bipartisan bill that seeks to improve breeding success for migratory waterfowl.

The HEN Act will authorize $1.5 million annually for the construction and maintenance of hen houses, which are significantly valuable to improving breeding success for migratory waterfowl. Additionally, the legislation authorizes another $1.5 million annually to boost incentives for private landowners in the state of California to improve breeding habitat on private lands.

According to Delta Waterfowl, a strong CSF partner and a leading waterfowl conservation organization, nesting success for mallard ducks is a marginal 3.8%. Combine this low success rate with challenges such as drought and predation, mallard ducks in particular have their work cut out for them to maintain healthy and sustainable populations. Fortunately, mallards have a unique ability to utilize hen houses, which is why the HEN Act seeks to establish funding to build, maintain, and improve them. In addition, John Devney, Chief Policy Officer for Delta Waterfowl, states “Our research is pretty solid that if we can build 110,00 hen houses across the most productive parts of the Prairie Potholes and Canadian parklands, we can add up to 250,000 mallards to the flyway every year”.

CSF looks forward to working with Reps. Fischbach, Thompson, and LaMalfa to see this legislation signed into law given the challenges associated with breeding success for waterfowl across the nation.

 

 

CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES 2024 NASC EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

The 12 members and 3 alternate members elected from caucuses within the NASC network ensure that NASC provides the best service possible to the individual state caucuses.

January 10, 2024 (Washington, D.C.) The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), the nation’s most effective outdoor advocacy organization, formally announced today the slate of members serving on the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council for 2024.  Voted in by their peers representing NASC member states, the 12 elected members and 3 alternate members will ensure that NASC provides the best service possible to the individual state caucuses.

One of three caucuses under the CSF umbrella, NASC has grown since its inception in 2004 to now include nearly 2,300 pro-sportsmen legislators from sportsmen’s caucuses representing all 50 states.  NASC has become the most effective pro-conservation policy force in the nation, securing more than 1,000 policy victories since 2018 and monitoring more than 7,000 policy proposals each year.

“I am honored to once again serve as President for the NASC Executive Council and look forward to working with my fellow members on continuing to provide guidance to the 50 state sportsmen’s caucuses within the NASC umbrella,” said NASC Executive Council President, Rep. Jeff Goley (NH).  “Having been a member of NASC for many years as a Representative for the great state of New Hampshire, I have truly seen the invaluable benefit this collective of caucuses provides to all sportsmen and women and it is imperative we remain connected to ensure our outdoor traditions can be passed to future generations.”

NASC is guided by the Executive Council which is comprised of state legislators elected by their peers to provide advice and counsel to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and NASC. The Council assists with the establishment and promotion of pro-sportsman ideas and facilitates the sharing of information between state caucuses, conservation partners, and allied industries. The Executive Council plays a critical role in the protection and advancement of our time-honored sporting traditions by establishing the activities of NASC, developing issue briefs, and setting guidelines for affiliated state caucuses.

“The vast majority of the policy decisions that impact fish and wildlife conservation, and hunting and fishing access and opportunities are decided at the state level.  With the strength of the NASC network of legislators representing all 50 states, we can effectively make a difference in moving state policy, across the nation, for the greater good of our outdoor traditions,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Partnering with three caucuses within the CSF umbrella, including NASC, CSF is able to successfully provide a voice for all of America’s sportsmen and women in protecting and advancing our outdoor heritage.”

2024 NASC Executive Council

Leadership
President: Representative Jeff Goley (NH)
Vice President: Representative Bill Rehm (NM)
Secretary: Representative Jeff Wardlaw (AR)

Members
Senator Jack Bailey (MD)
Representative Scott Bounds (MS)
Representative Patrick Brennan (VT)
Representative Bobby Cox (SC)
Representative Kevin Wallace (OK)
Senator Robin Webb (KY)
Senator David Wilson (AK)
Representative Steve Wood (ME)
Representative Jerome Zeringue (LA)

Alternate Members
Representative Jesse Chism (TN)
Representative Amos O’Neal (MI)
Senator Lynda Wilson (WA)

 

 

THE OPRAH EFFECT: EVEN MORE FREE OR DISCOUNTED LICENSE BILLS PROPOSED IN THE MIDWEST

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: Introduced as a way to honor certain groups of people, often veterans, legislative efforts to provide free or discounted hunting or fishing licenses continue to crop up around the Midwest, and across the country. While seemingly a harmless way to thank those who served our country, discounted licenses are a double-edged sword in that, without a replacement for the license dollars forgone, can cause conservation funding within a to state suffer. As legislators and members of the sporting-conservation community weigh in on these efforts, we encourage everyone to consider conservation funding and opportunities to mitigate the detrimental impact that such discounted or free licenses could pose.

Highlights:

  • While discounted license legislation can provide a show of gratitude for deserving user groups, these actions carry consequences for conservation funding that are often poorly understood.
  • With legislative sessions starting across the Midwest, states like Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska have already seen legislation introduced that would provide such discounts.
  • As sportsmen and women, we have a duty to advocate on behalf of our self-imposed contributions to conservation while educating the public about their benefits.

You get a free license! You get a free license!! EVERYBODY GETS A FREE LICENSE!!!

If you’re an avid reader of The Sportsmen’s Voice newsletter, or a sportsman or sportswoman who takes pride in how your contributions benefit on-the-ground conservation, you’re likely very familiar with the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).  For many, however, this System is often misunderstood. No legislative efforts better represent this misunderstanding than the multitude of legislative efforts to provide certain user groups with free or heavily discounted hunting or fishing licenses. Introduced as a sign of gratitude, such discounts are often viewed as a consequence-free option designed to provide these users with additional, low-cost (or no-cost) opportunities to participate in our time-honored outdoor traditions.

Unfortunately, as defenders of the ASCF know well, these actions are not truly free of consequence. Not only do free or heavily discounted licenses result in decreased license revenue for the state agency (remember the key pillars of the ASCF), but they can impede an agency’s ability to fully access their federal apportionments available through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts which are calculated based on, among other factors, license “sales” that result in at least a minimum amount of revenue collected by the agency. Free licenses do not count toward this tally and, therefore, result in lower apportionments.

With states returning to session in 2024, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and others have already seen a variety of efforts to provide well-intended discounted or free hunting and fishing licenses through legislation. Although it is plain to recognize the merit behind these discounts, particularly as it relates to efforts dedicated to our nation’s veterans and first responders, we must also acknowledge the consequences. This is why the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is leading the effort to educate legislators on the merits of the ASCF as well as options, such as state license reimbursement legislation, that can help mitigate these consequences while still offering the intended discounted licenses. While Oprah might have the resources to give everyone a brand-new car (or hunting and fishing license), states need to find a way to strike a balance and safeguard critical conservation funding for the benefit of current and future generations.

 

 

HERE WE GO AGAIN… NH BILL SEEKS TO SEAT NON-SPORTING CITIZENS TO BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why It Matters: Introduced on January 3, 2024, New Hampshire House Bill (HB) 1148 seeks to amend the current process and prerequisites in which a Fish & Game Commissioner is nominated and approved. With the proposed changes to RSA 206:2 Appointment of Commission the nominating process would make nominees for an open seat public by way of publishing the name of the nominee in print and on the Department’s website. Most troublesome, and a point of concern for all of New Hampshire’s sporting community, is the proposed changes to the qualifications in Section III of RSA 206:2-a that paves the way for non-hunting and perhaps even anti-hunting nominees to be approved as New Hampshire Fish and Game Commissioners.

Highlights:

  • On January 3, 2024, HB 1148 An Act Relative to the Fish and Game Commission was introduced to the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee.
  • The proposed amendments change the nomination process, currently in the hands of county sporting clubs’ boards, and instead vests that power with “participating organizations”.
  • Participating Organization is defined by the proposal in Section III (a) as, “An organization which has specific interests in hunting, fishing, or trapping, or a wildlife or habitat conservation organization organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and which has been registered with the department of state for at least 2 consecutive years.”
  • This is not a new idea in the Granite State. In 2020, 2021, and 2022, New Hampshire saw legislative efforts to amend the qualifications that potential members of the Fish and Game Commission must meet, which would ultimately afford recreational clubs and non-consumptive organizations seats at the table.

In what is quickly becoming solidified as a perennial issue, the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department’s Commission is once again the focus of scrutiny from non-sporting and anti-hunting influences with the introduction of HB 1148. Established with the dedicated purpose of protecting and conserving wildlife, game commissions have been understandably staffed by experts in the field throughout their existence. Such experts’ ability to make responsible and effective decisions regarding wildlife management has become contested through non-sportsmen and women pushing for representation on game commissions. Having board members that are neutral on the matter or even directly oppose hunting, trapping, and fishing leads to obstructionism which, in turn, will potentially restrict access and opportunity for sportsmen and women. The pressure for non-consumptive representation on game commissions directly threatens the future of conservation.

Sportsmen and women contribute an incredible amount to conservation efforts through their volunteerism, as well as their purchases of hunting licenses, permits, tags, stamps, and other outdoor related gear. Contributions from species-specific and/or habitat organizations contribute still more. One only needs to look west to states like Oregon and Washington to observe examples of why such changes to commissions become more than problematic. In those states, recent commission decisions have become outright hostile to sound wildlife management, turn conservation doctrine into preservationists’ goal setting, and in some cases seek to ban the very systems and traditions that fund, maintain, and conserve balanced and healthy habitats.

HB 1148 is scheduled for a 10:30 am hearing on February 6, 2024 in the Legislative Office Building (behind the State House) in hearing room 307.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) looks forward to working with the New Hampshire Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to staunchly oppose this misguided legislation, and remains committed to thwarting efforts to subvert the mission and success of the New Hampshire Fish & Game Commission.

States Involved: NH

 

 

CONSERVATION POLICY TRENDS WE EXPECT TO SEE MOVING IN THE SOUTHEAST THIS YEAR

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE

Why It Matters: Hunting and fishing are integral components of many Southern states’ traditions. This is reflected in the legislature, where several states support firearm ownership and use, dedicated conservation funding, and several other pro-sportsmen measures to ensure that outdoor sporting traditions are protected for generations to come. However, there is still much more work to be done on behalf of sportsmen and women in the South. Here is a look ahead at a few big-ticket items, among many others, that we expect to see this year.

Highlights:

  • In Louisiana and Mississippi, there will be continued efforts to identify dedicated conservation funding sources for the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program and the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.
  • Several states will work towards allowing state fish and wildlife agencies to be reimbursed for any lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses.
  • Some states may consider updating their No-Net Loss baselines to further protect access for sportsmen and women.

From fabled duck hunting in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley to outstanding fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and everything in between, our outdoor sporting traditions make up the very fabric of the South. A critical aspect of maintaining these traditions is protecting and enhancing conservation funding through the American System of Conservation Funding and other funding mechanisms.

Dedicated conservation funding has been a hot topic in Louisiana and Mississippi for the past several years. After the passage of the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program and the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Program, where each have received appropriations from the legislature for critical conservation projects, there has been a concerted effort among various conservation partners and each state’s respective legislative sportsmen’s caucus to identify avenues of securing dedicated sources of funding for their programs.

Additionally, many states will be working to protect the American System of Conservation funding through establishing free license reimbursement frameworks. Every year across the country, many bills are introduced that aim to provide certain segments of the population with free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses. While well-intended, the passage of these bills can negatively impact conservation funding for state fish and wildlife agencies through direct revenue loss and the loss of federal matching dollars. Therefore, several states are looking to follow Tennessee’s lead requiring the legislature to reimburse their respective state fish and wildlife agency for lost revenue due to the passage of a new free or discounted hunting and fishing license.

In other states, such as Kentucky, we continue to see efforts that will negatively impact funding for conservation through bills that would exempt private landowners from having to purchase specific licenses, which further threatens the management of our public trust resources.

Lastly, maintaining access for sportsmen and women is critical to the continuance of hunting and fishing as much of the land in the Southeast is privately owned. No-Net Loss policies limit the loss of access to hunting and fishing on state-owned public lands by establishing a minimum acreage of publicly owned areas open to sportsmen and women, which ensures that future generations have the same opportunities tomorrow that currently exist today. In 2022, Georgia updated their No-Net Loss baseline to further protect 200,000 additional acres of public lands, and CSF will be working with sportsmen’s caucuses in several other states this year to follow suit.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) looks forward to continuing to work alongside the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses and our partners as we work to protect hunting and fishing opportunities in the South and across the country.

Policy Corner Brief: JANUARY 2024 This article is published in the issue.
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PRESIDENT BIDEN SIGNS CSC LEADERS SEN. BOOZMAN, REP. GRAVES’ DUCK STAMP MODERNIZATION ACT INTO LAW

December 20, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Yesterday, President Biden signed S. 788, the Duck Stamp Modernization Act, into law, delivering a significant victory to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and waterfowl hunters across the nation.

CSF extends our appreciation to Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Leaders Co-Chairs Sens. John Boozman and Joe Manchin, CSC Vice-Chairs Sens. Roger Marshall and Angus King as well as CSC Vice-Chair Rep. Garret Graves and CSC Member Rep. Mike Thompson for spearheading this legislation.

The quick enactment of the Duck Stamp Modernization Act is a result of CSF’s ability to advocate for sportsmen and women across the nation. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives cleared S. 788 403-20 after the Senate passed the bill unanimously in July, a sign of the wide-spread support for efforts to modernize and improve the experiences of hunters across the nation. Now that the Duck Stamp Modernization Act is law, CSF is already at work to ensure that this legislation will be implemented in a timely manner, particularly in advance of 2024 – 2025 waterfowl hunting seasons, to allow for hunters to take advantage of this victory.

“At a time when there have been few bills signed into law, CSF is glad to see the leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus work collaboratively to secure the enactment of an important bill for sportsmen and women across the country,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “The strong votes in Congress and the enactment of this legislation only further demonstrates that our sporting traditions remain an area for bipartisan agreement, and CSF is proud to work alongside the CSC to promote the unmatched bipartisan support for our sporting traditions.”

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. Prior to the enactment of the Duck Stamp Modernization Act, when a hunter purchased an electronic Federal Duck Stamp (e-stamp), the e-stamp was only valid for a period of 45 days to allow for actual stamp to be mailed. Once the actual stamp was received, hunters were required to have a signed actual stamp on their possession while hunting. 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, 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 will now shift to working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure this legislation is implemented in a timely manner.

 

 

CLASSROOM TO CROSSHAIRS: MICHIGAN SEEKS TO INCLUDE HUNTER SAFETY IN EDUCATION CURRICULUM

ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS

Why It Matters: With hunter participation rates declining across the country, the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus enters 2024 with a partial fix on the docket: requiring that a model hunter safety course be created for schools to offer as an elective. Exposing students to firearm safety and hunting practices aims to recruit more young hunters into the fields of the Wolverine State, with the intent to invite newcomers on a lifelong stewardship of its storied wildlife species.

Highlights:

  • Senate Bill 664 was introduced by Michigan Legislative Caucus Co-Chair Senator Jon Bumstead, and its companion, House Bill 5334 was introduced by fellow Caucus member Representative Curt Vanderwall.
  • Together, the bills have nearly 70 bipartisan co-sponsors, as well as the support of both the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).
  • Advancing hunter education opportunities in schools is a policy priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). During the 2024 session, CSF will actively work with legislators and stakeholder partners to help guide these bills through the legislative process.

Introduced on the final day of Michigan’s 2023 legislative session by Senator Jon Bumstead, Co-Chair of the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and his fellow Caucus member Representative Curt Vanderwall, SB 664 and HB 5334 would require that the DNR and MDE collaboratively create a model firearm safety course for schools to voluntarily offer as an elective course.

The course would teach students proper usage and handling of firearms, safe cleaning and maintenance of firearms, different types of firearms, and safe hunting practices. Although firearms and ammunition will not be allowed into a school building during the instruction, the course will qualify as completing the state’s hunter safety requirement, which is one component needed to obtain a hunting license. In order to obtain a license, students will also need to complete a field day.

The bills, which are carried over into the 2024 legislative session, were respectively assigned to be heard in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture and the House Committee on Judiciary. Through the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, CSF will work with legislators to promote the passage of these important bills that seek to recruit newcomers to join us in our time-honored outdoor traditions.

States Involved: MI

 

 

NEW YEAR, NEW THREATS TO CONSERVATION FUNDING IN KENTUCKY

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: While hunting and fishing license exemptions for qualified individuals or groups are well-intentioned, they threaten conservation funding for state fish and wildlife agencies through both the direct loss of license sales and the loss of matching federal funds through the Pittman-Robertson (PR) and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux (DJ) Acts. State fish and wildlife agencies depend heavily on license sales to carry out their conservation missions that are critical to sportsmen and women and our time-honored traditions of hunting, fishing, and trapping.

Highlights:

  • In 2023, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 241, sponsored by Kentucky Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Chair Senator Robin Webb, which helped secure 54,000 acres of critical elk habitat in Southeast Kentucky and added “of five (5) or more acres” language to the resident owner of farmlands sport hunting or sport fishing license exemption.
  • With the 2024 Kentucky Legislative Session now underway, Senate Bill 5 seeks to remove the “of five (5) or more acres” language from the farmlands license exemption.
  • House Bill 106 would replace “owner of farmlands” with “landowner” and remove the “of five (5) or more acres” language from the farmlands license exemption. Also, House Bill 106 would exempt residents and authorized persons from having to obtain a fishing license when fishing in private ponds.
  • Additionally, Senate Bill 55 would remove “farmlands” from the farmlands license exemption and would also exempt residents and authorized persons from having to obtain a fishing license when fishing in private ponds.

While Kentucky is perhaps best known for horse racing and bourbon, the Bluegrass State also offers unrivaled hunting, fishing, and trapping opportunities. Whether you choose to watch the sunrise while bass fishing on the family farm or explore the ruggedness of the Daniel Boone National Forest while chasing spring turkeys, there are endless ways to enjoy our time-honored traditions.  Regardless of whether you pursue game on private or public land, the critical conservation dollars generated through the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding carries the same weight in the eyes of the state fish and wildlife agency. One of the key tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is that fish and wildlife are public trust resources managed by the state for the benefit of the public.

An acreage component for the current license exemption for farmlands in Kentucky clarifies who is exempt from licensing while striking a balance to protect conservation funding. The intent of adding “of five (5) or more acres” to the “farmlands” definition in SB 241 was to cut down on the number of people claiming the “farmlands” exemption. Similarly, the minimum acreage to qualify for “agricultural land” is ten acres.

Fishing license exemptions as broad as those outlined in Senate Bill 55 and House Bill 106 would impact a large number of license buyers which would negatively impact conservation funding for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Other Southeastern states handle fishing on private lands in a manner that protects conservation funding. For example, North Carolina offers a $100 Special Landholder and Guest Fishing License that allows the landholder and guests to fish their private waters without an additional license.

With conservation funding at the center of protecting our time-honored traditions, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will continue to work to protect conservation funding in the Commonwealth.

States Involved: KY

 

 

JEFF CRANE, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION, NAMED 2024 HSCF CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR

January 16, 2024 (Houston, TX) Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF) is pleased to announce Jeff Crane, President and CEO of Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), has been recognized as the 2024 Houston Safari Club Foundation Conservationist of the Year.

The HSCF Conservationist of the Year Award recognizes exceptional champions of conservation, either individuals or organizations, exemplifying a true servant’s heart for the outdoors. Award recipients are considered for their work related to education, advocacy, legislation, policy, environmental activities, and the protection and preservation of wildlife and habitat.

Jeff has been at the helm of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation for 19 years leading an elite team of federal and state policy experts. With more than 40 years of experience in on-the-ground natural resource management and policy expertise at the federal, state, and international levels, Jeff plays an integral role in promoting and advocating for the rights of hunters and anglers, America’s true conservationists. A life-long outdoorsman, Jeff spent five years working in the U.S. Congress and was instrumental in establishing the Maryland legislative sportsmen’s caucus prior to joining CSF. His passion and dedication to conservation extends beyond his current role at CSF having served as the Chairman of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council and Chairman of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, and currently serves as the Co-Chairman of Legislative Policy for the Alliance for America’s Fish & Wildlife.

“I am truly honored to be recognized as this year’s Conservationist of the Year and want to extend my deepest gratitude to Houston Safari Club Foundation for bestowing this award upon me. As a young child, I grew up learning to appreciate our natural resources and being able to work in a field I am so incredibly passionate about is a dream come true. Conservation is not just a term we use in the policy arena; it is a sense of pride all of us hunters and anglers embody knowing we are helping to protect our natural resources for current and future generations,” stated Jeff Crane, CSF President and CEO.

“HSCF is extremely proud to honor Jeff with this award. It is only a small token of thanks for the countless hours and numerous battles he has waged in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the hunters and anglers of America, to protect the future of hunting, fishing, habitat, and wildlife,” stated Joe Betar, HSCF Executive Director.

About Houston Safari Club Foundation
Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve the sport of hunting through education, conservation, and the promotion of our hunting heritage. HSCF has awarded 625 scholarships totaling $2.8 million dollars. HSCF conducts youth outdoor education programs, career training, hunter education and field experiences throughout the year. HSCF has provided over $4 million in grants for hunter-funded wildlife, habitat and various conservation initiatives. HSCF is an independent organization, is not affiliated with Safari Club International (SCI) or its affiliates and is not a chapter or affiliate of any other organization. Visit our website at wehuntwegive.org or call 713.623.8844 for more information. HSCF. We Hunt. We Give.

About Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Founded in 1989, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is the informed authority across outdoor issues and serves as the primary conduit for influencing public policy. Working with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC), and the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), CSF gives a voice to hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers on Capitol hill and throughout state capitols advocating on vital outdoor issues that are the backbone of our nation’s conservation legacy. For more information on CSF’s policy work, visit www.congressionalsportsmen.org.

 

 

HEN ACT WOULD BOOST WATERFOWL POPULATIONS ACROSS THE NATION

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: With declining wetland habitats, severe drought, increased predation, and other challenges, waterfowl populations are not as robust as waterfowl hunters and others would like to see. For example, mallard ducks are down 23% from their long-term average, a sign of the struggle associated with breeding success. However, there are well-established practices such as building hen houses that can deliver meaningful results for waterfowl and waterfowl hunters.

Highlights:

  • A few weeks ago, Rep. Michelle Fischbach (MN) along with Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Mike Thompson (CA) and Doug LaMalfa (CA) introduced R. 6854, the Habitat Enhancement Now (HEN) Act.
  • This bipartisan legislation, which is strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), would establish two grant programs for a total of $3 million annually for a period of 5 years to bolster the breeding success of waterfowl across the nation.
  • Specifically, the legislation will establish a grant program for both the state of California and the prairie pothole region to build hen houses and to improve other important breeding resources for waterfowl.

In late December, Representative Michelle Fischbach as well as CSC Members Representatives Mike Thompson and Doug LaMalfa introduced the Habitat Enhancement Now Act, a bipartisan bill that seeks to improve breeding success for migratory waterfowl.

The HEN Act will authorize $1.5 million annually for the construction and maintenance of hen houses, which are significantly valuable to improving breeding success for migratory waterfowl. Additionally, the legislation authorizes another $1.5 million annually to boost incentives for private landowners in the state of California to improve breeding habitat on private lands.

According to Delta Waterfowl, a strong CSF partner and a leading waterfowl conservation organization, nesting success for mallard ducks is a marginal 3.8%. Combine this low success rate with challenges such as drought and predation, mallard ducks in particular have their work cut out for them to maintain healthy and sustainable populations. Fortunately, mallards have a unique ability to utilize hen houses, which is why the HEN Act seeks to establish funding to build, maintain, and improve them. In addition, John Devney, Chief Policy Officer for Delta Waterfowl, states “Our research is pretty solid that if we can build 110,00 hen houses across the most productive parts of the Prairie Potholes and Canadian parklands, we can add up to 250,000 mallards to the flyway every year”.

CSF looks forward to working with Reps. Fischbach, Thompson, and LaMalfa to see this legislation signed into law given the challenges associated with breeding success for waterfowl across the nation.

 

 

CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES 2024 NASC EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

The 12 members and 3 alternate members elected from caucuses within the NASC network ensure that NASC provides the best service possible to the individual state caucuses.

January 10, 2024 (Washington, D.C.) The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), the nation’s most effective outdoor advocacy organization, formally announced today the slate of members serving on the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council for 2024.  Voted in by their peers representing NASC member states, the 12 elected members and 3 alternate members will ensure that NASC provides the best service possible to the individual state caucuses.

One of three caucuses under the CSF umbrella, NASC has grown since its inception in 2004 to now include nearly 2,300 pro-sportsmen legislators from sportsmen’s caucuses representing all 50 states.  NASC has become the most effective pro-conservation policy force in the nation, securing more than 1,000 policy victories since 2018 and monitoring more than 7,000 policy proposals each year.

“I am honored to once again serve as President for the NASC Executive Council and look forward to working with my fellow members on continuing to provide guidance to the 50 state sportsmen’s caucuses within the NASC umbrella,” said NASC Executive Council President, Rep. Jeff Goley (NH).  “Having been a member of NASC for many years as a Representative for the great state of New Hampshire, I have truly seen the invaluable benefit this collective of caucuses provides to all sportsmen and women and it is imperative we remain connected to ensure our outdoor traditions can be passed to future generations.”

NASC is guided by the Executive Council which is comprised of state legislators elected by their peers to provide advice and counsel to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and NASC. The Council assists with the establishment and promotion of pro-sportsman ideas and facilitates the sharing of information between state caucuses, conservation partners, and allied industries. The Executive Council plays a critical role in the protection and advancement of our time-honored sporting traditions by establishing the activities of NASC, developing issue briefs, and setting guidelines for affiliated state caucuses.

“The vast majority of the policy decisions that impact fish and wildlife conservation, and hunting and fishing access and opportunities are decided at the state level.  With the strength of the NASC network of legislators representing all 50 states, we can effectively make a difference in moving state policy, across the nation, for the greater good of our outdoor traditions,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Partnering with three caucuses within the CSF umbrella, including NASC, CSF is able to successfully provide a voice for all of America’s sportsmen and women in protecting and advancing our outdoor heritage.”

2024 NASC Executive Council

Leadership
President: Representative Jeff Goley (NH)
Vice President: Representative Bill Rehm (NM)
Secretary: Representative Jeff Wardlaw (AR)

Members
Senator Jack Bailey (MD)
Representative Scott Bounds (MS)
Representative Patrick Brennan (VT)
Representative Bobby Cox (SC)
Representative Kevin Wallace (OK)
Senator Robin Webb (KY)
Senator David Wilson (AK)
Representative Steve Wood (ME)
Representative Jerome Zeringue (LA)

Alternate Members
Representative Jesse Chism (TN)
Representative Amos O’Neal (MI)
Senator Lynda Wilson (WA)

 

 

THE OPRAH EFFECT: EVEN MORE FREE OR DISCOUNTED LICENSE BILLS PROPOSED IN THE MIDWEST

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: Introduced as a way to honor certain groups of people, often veterans, legislative efforts to provide free or discounted hunting or fishing licenses continue to crop up around the Midwest, and across the country. While seemingly a harmless way to thank those who served our country, discounted licenses are a double-edged sword in that, without a replacement for the license dollars forgone, can cause conservation funding within a to state suffer. As legislators and members of the sporting-conservation community weigh in on these efforts, we encourage everyone to consider conservation funding and opportunities to mitigate the detrimental impact that such discounted or free licenses could pose.

Highlights:

  • While discounted license legislation can provide a show of gratitude for deserving user groups, these actions carry consequences for conservation funding that are often poorly understood.
  • With legislative sessions starting across the Midwest, states like Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska have already seen legislation introduced that would provide such discounts.
  • As sportsmen and women, we have a duty to advocate on behalf of our self-imposed contributions to conservation while educating the public about their benefits.

You get a free license! You get a free license!! EVERYBODY GETS A FREE LICENSE!!!

If you’re an avid reader of The Sportsmen’s Voice newsletter, or a sportsman or sportswoman who takes pride in how your contributions benefit on-the-ground conservation, you’re likely very familiar with the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).  For many, however, this System is often misunderstood. No legislative efforts better represent this misunderstanding than the multitude of legislative efforts to provide certain user groups with free or heavily discounted hunting or fishing licenses. Introduced as a sign of gratitude, such discounts are often viewed as a consequence-free option designed to provide these users with additional, low-cost (or no-cost) opportunities to participate in our time-honored outdoor traditions.

Unfortunately, as defenders of the ASCF know well, these actions are not truly free of consequence. Not only do free or heavily discounted licenses result in decreased license revenue for the state agency (remember the key pillars of the ASCF), but they can impede an agency’s ability to fully access their federal apportionments available through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts which are calculated based on, among other factors, license “sales” that result in at least a minimum amount of revenue collected by the agency. Free licenses do not count toward this tally and, therefore, result in lower apportionments.

With states returning to session in 2024, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and others have already seen a variety of efforts to provide well-intended discounted or free hunting and fishing licenses through legislation. Although it is plain to recognize the merit behind these discounts, particularly as it relates to efforts dedicated to our nation’s veterans and first responders, we must also acknowledge the consequences. This is why the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is leading the effort to educate legislators on the merits of the ASCF as well as options, such as state license reimbursement legislation, that can help mitigate these consequences while still offering the intended discounted licenses. While Oprah might have the resources to give everyone a brand-new car (or hunting and fishing license), states need to find a way to strike a balance and safeguard critical conservation funding for the benefit of current and future generations.

 

 

HERE WE GO AGAIN… NH BILL SEEKS TO SEAT NON-SPORTING CITIZENS TO BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why It Matters: Introduced on January 3, 2024, New Hampshire House Bill (HB) 1148 seeks to amend the current process and prerequisites in which a Fish & Game Commissioner is nominated and approved. With the proposed changes to RSA 206:2 Appointment of Commission the nominating process would make nominees for an open seat public by way of publishing the name of the nominee in print and on the Department’s website. Most troublesome, and a point of concern for all of New Hampshire’s sporting community, is the proposed changes to the qualifications in Section III of RSA 206:2-a that paves the way for non-hunting and perhaps even anti-hunting nominees to be approved as New Hampshire Fish and Game Commissioners.

Highlights:

  • On January 3, 2024, HB 1148 An Act Relative to the Fish and Game Commission was introduced to the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee.
  • The proposed amendments change the nomination process, currently in the hands of county sporting clubs’ boards, and instead vests that power with “participating organizations”.
  • Participating Organization is defined by the proposal in Section III (a) as, “An organization which has specific interests in hunting, fishing, or trapping, or a wildlife or habitat conservation organization organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and which has been registered with the department of state for at least 2 consecutive years.”
  • This is not a new idea in the Granite State. In 2020, 2021, and 2022, New Hampshire saw legislative efforts to amend the qualifications that potential members of the Fish and Game Commission must meet, which would ultimately afford recreational clubs and non-consumptive organizations seats at the table.

In what is quickly becoming solidified as a perennial issue, the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department’s Commission is once again the focus of scrutiny from non-sporting and anti-hunting influences with the introduction of HB 1148. Established with the dedicated purpose of protecting and conserving wildlife, game commissions have been understandably staffed by experts in the field throughout their existence. Such experts’ ability to make responsible and effective decisions regarding wildlife management has become contested through non-sportsmen and women pushing for representation on game commissions. Having board members that are neutral on the matter or even directly oppose hunting, trapping, and fishing leads to obstructionism which, in turn, will potentially restrict access and opportunity for sportsmen and women. The pressure for non-consumptive representation on game commissions directly threatens the future of conservation.

Sportsmen and women contribute an incredible amount to conservation efforts through their volunteerism, as well as their purchases of hunting licenses, permits, tags, stamps, and other outdoor related gear. Contributions from species-specific and/or habitat organizations contribute still more. One only needs to look west to states like Oregon and Washington to observe examples of why such changes to commissions become more than problematic. In those states, recent commission decisions have become outright hostile to sound wildlife management, turn conservation doctrine into preservationists’ goal setting, and in some cases seek to ban the very systems and traditions that fund, maintain, and conserve balanced and healthy habitats.

HB 1148 is scheduled for a 10:30 am hearing on February 6, 2024 in the Legislative Office Building (behind the State House) in hearing room 307.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) looks forward to working with the New Hampshire Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to staunchly oppose this misguided legislation, and remains committed to thwarting efforts to subvert the mission and success of the New Hampshire Fish & Game Commission.

States Involved: NH

 

 

CONSERVATION POLICY TRENDS WE EXPECT TO SEE MOVING IN THE SOUTHEAST THIS YEAR

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE

Why It Matters: Hunting and fishing are integral components of many Southern states’ traditions. This is reflected in the legislature, where several states support firearm ownership and use, dedicated conservation funding, and several other pro-sportsmen measures to ensure that outdoor sporting traditions are protected for generations to come. However, there is still much more work to be done on behalf of sportsmen and women in the South. Here is a look ahead at a few big-ticket items, among many others, that we expect to see this year.

Highlights:

  • In Louisiana and Mississippi, there will be continued efforts to identify dedicated conservation funding sources for the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program and the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.
  • Several states will work towards allowing state fish and wildlife agencies to be reimbursed for any lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses.
  • Some states may consider updating their No-Net Loss baselines to further protect access for sportsmen and women.

From fabled duck hunting in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley to outstanding fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and everything in between, our outdoor sporting traditions make up the very fabric of the South. A critical aspect of maintaining these traditions is protecting and enhancing conservation funding through the American System of Conservation Funding and other funding mechanisms.

Dedicated conservation funding has been a hot topic in Louisiana and Mississippi for the past several years. After the passage of the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program and the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Program, where each have received appropriations from the legislature for critical conservation projects, there has been a concerted effort among various conservation partners and each state’s respective legislative sportsmen’s caucus to identify avenues of securing dedicated sources of funding for their programs.

Additionally, many states will be working to protect the American System of Conservation funding through establishing free license reimbursement frameworks. Every year across the country, many bills are introduced that aim to provide certain segments of the population with free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses. While well-intended, the passage of these bills can negatively impact conservation funding for state fish and wildlife agencies through direct revenue loss and the loss of federal matching dollars. Therefore, several states are looking to follow Tennessee’s lead requiring the legislature to reimburse their respective state fish and wildlife agency for lost revenue due to the passage of a new free or discounted hunting and fishing license.

In other states, such as Kentucky, we continue to see efforts that will negatively impact funding for conservation through bills that would exempt private landowners from having to purchase specific licenses, which further threatens the management of our public trust resources.

Lastly, maintaining access for sportsmen and women is critical to the continuance of hunting and fishing as much of the land in the Southeast is privately owned. No-Net Loss policies limit the loss of access to hunting and fishing on state-owned public lands by establishing a minimum acreage of publicly owned areas open to sportsmen and women, which ensures that future generations have the same opportunities tomorrow that currently exist today. In 2022, Georgia updated their No-Net Loss baseline to further protect 200,000 additional acres of public lands, and CSF will be working with sportsmen’s caucuses in several other states this year to follow suit.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) looks forward to continuing to work alongside the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses and our partners as we work to protect hunting and fishing opportunities in the South and across the country.

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