American Wildlife Conservation Partners Release Wildlife for the 21st Century – Setting Top Priorities for Next 4 Years
July 15, 2020 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), comprised of the nation’s top 50 sporting-conservation organizations, including founding member, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), have released Wildlife for the 21st Century, Volume 6 (W21) . This publication will aid policymakers in the administration and the next two Congresses in making decisions that will help the future of conservation thrive. The recommendations in Volume 6 will guide the federal administration on sporting-conservation issues and practices that are vital in the 21st century for current and future generations of sportsmen and women.
Recommendations included in Wildlife for the 21st Century, Volume 6, focus on conservation practices of fish, wildlife and their habitats across the nation. The implementation of sound, science-based conservation is important for the future of wildlife, and guidance provided through the AWCP coalition will lead wildlife conservation in a pragmatic direction. CSF played an active role in the development of W21 through the leadership of Andy Treharne, CSF’s Senior Director of Western States and Federal Policy, who serves on the AWCP Steering Committee.
These recommendations will also increase opportunities for sporting-related activities on federal lands and waters. Increasing access for sportsmen and women is critical to ensuring the future of our time-honored sporting traditions, conservation funding, and the associated economic activity that hunting and recreational shooting provide the nation. Last year alone, sportsmen and women contributed nearly $2.96 billion to the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a “user pays, public benefits” program. Sportsmen and women are the primary contributors to wildlife conservation, providing the majority of funding for state fish and wildlife agencies through purchases of sporting licenses and sporting equipment which generate revenue through excise taxes that are specifically directed towards conservation.
Wildlife for the 21st Century publications are developed every four years to define the sporting community’s priorities for the upcoming presidential term. The recommendations provided by the AWCP in this publication will benefit the future generations of sportsmen and women by supplying professional and science-based conservation management recommendations, showcasing initiatives that will increase hunting and recreational shooting participation for the future, and providing overall guidance that highlights the needs of the sporting-conservation community to ensure our heritage remains for years to come.
You can find a copy of Wildlife for the 21st Century, Volume 6 here.
CSF Leads Effort to Secure Passage of Historic Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
July 1, 2020 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Building off of the Senate’s recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) led the effort to secure House passage of the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 3742 ) as part of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) was adopted as part of H.R. 2 on a voice vote, a sign of the strong bipartisan support for this legislation. This achievement marks a historic step to providing nearly $1.4 billion in unprecedented funding for nearly 12,000 at-risk species.
RAWA was introduced earlier this Congress by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Vice-Chair Representative Debbie Dingell (MI) and CSC member Representative Jeff Fortenberry (NE). Prior to the successful vote earlier today, CSF played a leading role in securing the inclusion of RAWA as part of H.R. 2 through alerts and strategic outreach to key CSC members in the House. CSF also helped lead a letter, which was signed by a strong contingent of more than 250 of the nation’s top conservation organizations, in support of advancing the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act as a means to stimulate the economy.
“As the Legislative Co-Chair of Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife, I am grateful for the leadership and commitment of Representatives Dingell and Fortenberry,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “The passage of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act out of the House represents the most significant investment in state and tribal fish and wildlife conservation in the last two decades, and we are now shifting our efforts to passing RAWA out of the Senate and then over to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will authorize $1.397 billion for a period of 5 years to expand our recreational infrastructure, restore our natural resources, and invest in on-the-ground projects in every state and territory, and on tribal lands. Specifically, the funds authorized by RAWA will strengthen the capacity of state fish and wildlife agencies as the primary managers of our nation’s fish and wildlife to conduct proactive conservation efforts by providing financial assistance to fully implement their Congressionally mandated State Wildlife Action Plans.
As a component of H.R. 2, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act awaits further action in the Senate.
Louisiana: Pro-Sportsmen Legislation Signed into Law
Wild Game Donations
On June 9, legislation sponsored by Speaker Schexnayder was signed into law by the Governor. House Bill 35 (Act 125) adds feral hogs to the definition of “wild game” that can be donated under the game meat donation liability exemption statute. Game meat donation liability exemptions allow many state-run and nonprofit organizations to maximize donations from hunters without having to carry arduous liability insurance policies that limit the amount of people in need that can be fed.
On June 11, Governor Edwards signed House Bill 159 (Act 175) into law. The legislation extends the ability to hunt feral hogs, coyotes, armadillos, nutria or beaver during nighttime hours year-round on private property. Additionally, the law requires that the local parish sheriff be notified within twenty-four hours prior to the attempted taking or immediately upon harvest of these species.
House Bill 246 (Act 178), which authorizes the secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to certify a not-for-profit organization as an “organization involved in charitable hunting and fishing activities,” was signed by the Governor on June 11. Once an organization is certified, individuals engaged in hunting or fishing activities conducted by the organization would be exempt from license requirements during the sponsored activities.
Licenses for Purple Heart Recipients
On June 11, House Bill 411 (Act 190) was signed into law by Governor Edwards. Sponsored by Caucus Member Representative Neil Riser, the legislation allows any person who has been awarded a Purple Heart, including a nonresident, to be issued hunting and fishing licenses at the resident rate. Many states offer discounted licenses to qualifying veterans and active duty military members.
Firearms and Ammunition Regulation
On June 12, House Bill 781 (Act 325), which deems firearms and ammunition businesses as essential for the purposes of operating or conducting business during a declared emergency or disaster, was signed into law by the Governor. Sponsored by Caucus Member Representative Blake Miguez, the law specifically lists firearm and ammunition manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, suppliers, retailers and shooting ranges as essential businesses and operations for the purposes of safety and security.
Each of the laws mentioned above will be effective on August 1, 2020. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, in conjunction with the Caucus, will continue to monitor legislation affecting the more than 904,000 sportsmen and women of Louisiana.
Michigan to Review 4.6 Million Acre Public Land Stategy
As of July 9, the Michigan (MI) Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is currently reviewing and seeking input on their statewide public land strategy. Originally created in 2013, the DNR is reviewing the success of their first public land strategy while identifying any necessary adjustments. An updated strategy must be submitted to the Michigan Legislature by July 21, 2021 for final consideration and approval by the legislature.
The Michigan DNR manages nearly 4.6 million acres of public lands across the state. Many of the management practices utilized by the DNR to benefit these lands, and the wildlife that inhabits them, are funded through the American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays – public benefits” structure funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and federal excises taxes that funds the majority of the MI DNR’s conservation efforts. In return, these lands provide significant recreational opportunities to both Michigan residents and visitors. The importance of these resources has taken on a new light during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, Michiganders are seeking a respite in the outdoors by taking advantage of the many parks, wildlife areas, beaches, and trails. Michigan is experiencing an outdoor renaissance of sorts as people look to the outdoors in search of ways to practice #ResponsibleRecreation.
Michigan’s public lands also contribute significantly to the state’s economy. According to the MI DNR’s website:
- Michigan’s state parks, which draw 28 million visitors each year, act as a catalyst to attract out-of-state tourists and provide a focal point for activities that drive local economies.
- Michigan’s state game and wildlife areas, state forests and state parks offer abundant places to hunt, fish and watch wildlife, all activities that help drive the state’s economy. Hunting contributes almost $9 billion, fishing contributes more than $2 billion, and wildlife viewing contributes more than $1 billion annually.
- Home to many tourist attractions – known for both their unique natural beauty and their rich history – DNR-managed lands are the backbone of Michigan’s $20 billion-plus tourism industry.
- Harbors and boat launches on DNR-managed lands also provide access to the Great Lakes and inland lakes and streams for boating, which has an economic impact of more than $7 billion a year in Michigan.
- State forest land supplies more than 20% of the timber consumed by the forest industry statewide. The industry contributes $21.2 billion and more than 99,000 jobs to the economy annually
The goals outlined in the public land strategy include:
- Protecting and preserving Michigan’s natural and cultural resources.
- Providing spaces for quality outdoor recreation opportunities.
- Promoting natural resources management.
Although the strategy will primarily focus on the almost 4.6 million acres of state-owned land, it will also recognize the importance of the 3.6 million acres managed by the federal government and the tens of thousands of acres managed by counties and municipalities across the state. If you are interested in providing comments on the public lands strategy, you can follow this link to review the current plan and to identify lands that are a priority to you.
Mississippi: School Hunter Safety Course Legislation Signed into Law
On June 25, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Tate Reeves signed House Bill 1577 into law. The legislation, sponsored by Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Speaker Philip Gunn, authorizes a hunter safety course for students in Grades 7 through 12 that will satisfy the hunter education course requirement for purchasing a hunting license.
Adding a hunter safety course to a student’s elective academic curriculum supports efforts to recruit the next generation of hunters. Offering hunter education courses in schools also encourages youth to become active in the outdoors to combat sedentary behavior and improve physical health.
The State Board of Education (Board) will consult with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) to prepare resources and guidelines for local school boards to develop the courses. The hunter safety courses can be conducted during the day or as an after-school program and will be designed to expose students to firearm safety. The statute clarifies that the use of operable weapons and live ammunition in the course is prohibited, and that the instructor must be well-trained and credentialed to provide instruction in the safe handling of firearms.
The law became effective on July 1, 2020, and courses may begin in the 2020-2021 school year. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation would like to thank the Caucus, the Governor, the MDWFP and the Board for supporting hunter recruitment efforts through their work to pass this legislation.
USDA Announces 1.2 Million New Acres Enrolled During Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands Sign-Up
On July 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that 1.2 million acres were enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands. This recent sign-up period extended from March 16 through May 15, 2020. A total of 1.9 million acres were available for enrollment during this period. However, considering the various challenges faced during the CRP Grasslands enrollment period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the addition of 1.2 million acres should be viewed as a success for conservation.
As part of the Conservation Reserve Program, one of the largest and most successful voluntarily private lands conservation programs, CRP Grasslands allows landowners to receive annual federal rental payments to conserve grasslands, rangelands, and pastures while retaining the rights to continue common grazing practices, including haying, mowing, and harvesting seed from the enrolled acres. In addition to annual rental payments received throughout the duration of the 10 or 15-year CRP contract, landowners are also eligible for up to 50% cost-share for establishing approved conservation practices.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will continue to work with legislators, agency officials, and our conservation partners to promote CRP and other important Farm Bill conservation programs for the benefit of our natural resources and the sportsmen and women who enjoy them. For more information on this recent announcement or other important Farm Bill Conservation Programs, visit the USDA’s website.
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