Policy Corner Brief: JUNE 2021
CSF Secures Victories for Access, Conservation, and State Wildlife Management as Sessions Conclude in Lower Midwest
- As sessions come to a close across much of the Lower Midwest, several important policy priorities have been passed.
- Kansas Senate Bill 159 (SB 159) was amended by a conference committee and passed to authorize the purchase of a tract of land in Kingman County by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism for public access.
- Missouri House Bill 369 (HB 369), which was passed by the legislature on May 14, would authorize the Missouri Prescribed Burn Act and define liability standards for landowners and managers using fire for land management purposes.
- Texas Senate Bill 700 (SB 700) was passed by the legislature to extend the sunset for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department until reviewed again in 2033.
- While we continue to monitor several priorities that remain pending in legislatures across the region, we thank those involved for the successes of 2021 so far.
Why it matters: As several states across the Lower Midwest see their 2021 legislative session come to a close, now is an opportunity to look back at some of the policy victories that have been realized throughout the region so far this year. While the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has reported on several of these bills as they progressed throughout the legislative process, we are providing more updates regarding bills that have passed in recent weeks. These bills are related to state fish and wildlife agency operations, land acquisitions for public access and opportunities, and efforts to make private land management practices more accessible for landowners.
While many of the state legislatures in the Lower Midwest and around the country have started to wind down for the 2021 legislative session, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is proud to report on recent priorities that have been successfully passed by the legislature in several states across the region. Stay tuned to CSF’s weekly newsletter, The Sportsmen’s Voice, for more updates as sessions continue to near their adjournment.
Kansas: Kingman County Land Acquisition
While unsuccessful as a standalone bill in 2020 and 2021, an amendment was added by the conference committee to an appropriations bill (Senate Bill 159) which, among other things, authorizes the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism to acquire a property in Kingman County, Kansas for public access opportunities. This property near Wichita represents an excellent opportunity to increase public access for sportsmen and women near one of the state’s most densely populated cities. CSF testified in support of the standalone bill (Senate Bill 145) earlier this session and was happy to see the language cross the finish line.
Missouri: Prescribed Burn Act
After working with several in-state partners and members of the Missouri Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in 2020 and 2021, the Missouri Prescribed Burn Act (Act) will officially be sent to Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Mike Parson for his signature before being enacted. This Act, which defines liability standards for landowners and certified prescribed burn managers, represents a critical step in promoting the use of this important land management tool on The Show-Me State’s private lands.
Texas: Texas Fish and Wildlife Agency Sunset Extension
Finally, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 700, which extends the state agency sunset on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to 2033. This bill, authored by Texas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Dawn Buckingham, was a top priority for many members of the sportsmen’s community in The Lone Star State. With its passage, Senate Bill 700 ensures that TPWD will be able to continue managing Texas’ public trust resources for the benefit of all Texas, including the state’s sportsmen and women.
Michigan Legislation Could Impact How You Hunt with Your Dog
- Michigan House Bill 4784 (HB 4784) proposes an amendment to the definition of a “suitable” shelter for a dog, threatening to make it illegal for a dog to be housed outside, in a transport kennel or crate.
- Michigan Senate Bill 395 (SB 395) seeks to limit the time a dog can be outside in sub-freezing weather to thirty minutes, threatening sportsmen who hunt with dogs during winter.
Why it matters: As hunters, one of our most prized possessions, and often one of our most expensive, are our dogs. We would not do anything to put their health and wellbeing in jeopardy. However, HB 4784 and SB 395 could restrict our ability to recreate with our four-legged companions by dictating where and how we house them. These restrictions will have an impact on how we transport our dogs, where we stay, and how we train and hunt with our dogs. It would limit temporary housing solutions like transport crates, vehicles, and trailers unless certain conditions are met, regardless of temperature or weather conditions.
Sportsmen and women take enormous pride in our four-legged hunting companions. For many, spending time in the field with dogs is a major reason we hunt. However, our excursions often require us to kennel our dogs in truck beds, on chain tie-outs, in trailers, kennels, crates, or other temporary shelters. Hunters take every precaution to ensure our dogs’ comfort and safety. Despite this, proposed Michigan legislation could affect how we house our dogs and limit our ability to house them overnight while on a hunt.
House Bill 4784 states, “Unless modified to create shelter that provides adequate protection from the elements … a structure under this subparagraph does not include … metal or plastic barrels, animal carriers, transport crates, or wire crates that are designed to provide temporary housing. A structure under this subparagraph does not include the space under a vehicle, inside a vehicle that is not running appropriate climate controls while under adult supervision, … or shelters with wire or chain-link floors.” This could limit a hunter’s or camper’s ability to keep their dog outside in a crate overnight, on a chain tie-out, or alone in a vehicle when safe to do so.
Senate Bill 395 states, “If the outside temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a dog may be outside for a maximum of 30 consecutive minutes and then the dog must be brought inside an enclosure heated to at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit that otherwise qualifies as a shelter under this section for at least 30 minutes…” Though the bill does provide exclusions for dogs actively participating in activities like hunting, it fails to account for dog breeds that are well-adapted to subfreezing temperatures and allowed to remain outdoors for rest.
Unfortunately, we are seeing similar legislation in other states across the country. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is working with both national and in-state partners, as well as Michigan Sportsmen’s Caucus members, are working to ensure that policies reflect the needs of hunters while ensuring the safety and welfare of our four-legged companions.
CSF Supports Pro-Hunter Regulations in Kansas, Nebraska
- On June 17, the Kansas Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism Commission will hold their June meeting to discuss several regulatory amendments proposed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism.
- Included as a proposed amendment in Kansas is a definition change for muzzleloaders, expanding the definition to include the use of new technologies like the Federal FireStick platform.
- On June 10 and 11, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will hold their June meeting to discuss several proposed regulatory amendments.
- Included among the proposals is a regulatory amendment that would permit the lawful possession of a handgun for self-defense while archery hunting.
- In response to both proposed amendments, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has submitted formal letters of support to each respective commission.
Why it matters: While CSF maintains that state fish and wildlife agencies are the entities best equipped to make decisions regarding the management of our public trust fish and wildlife resources, fish and game commissions – the governing body for these agencies – typically host public comment periods to solicit input on proposed regulatory changes. These comment periods provide the general public, including sportsmen and women, an opportunity to learn the reasoning behind proposed regulatory changes and provide their input. During the upcoming commission meetings in Kansas and Nebraska, both commissions will hear proposed regulatory amendments that include priorities for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. These include a proposed amendment to the definition of muzzleloaders in Kansas and a proposal to allow archery hunters to carry handguns for self-defense while hunting.
Ahead of the Kansas Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism Commission and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission June meetings, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has submitted formal comment letters supporting proposed regulatory changes in both Kansas and Nebraska. While CSF maintains that state fish and wildlife management agencies are best equipped to make decisions regarding the management of fish and wildlife, these Commission meetings provide an opportunity for dialogue and public input regarding regulatory proposals. This engagement ensures that state agencies hear from the public for whom they are managing these resources.
Among the proposed regulatory amendments in Kansas is an expansion of the definition of “muzzleloaders.” Currently, muzzleloaders only include firearms in which both the powder and bullet are loaded from the muzzle. However, advances in muzzleloader technology, including the new FireStick platform by Federal Ammunition, have led to the development of muzzleloaders in which the powder charge can be safely loaded and unloaded from the breech. This proposed definition change would bring Kansas in line with several other states which only require the bullet to be loaded through the muzzle. This technology makes it easier for some hunters to participate in the sport and allows the powder to stay dry resulting in a more accurate and ethical shot. CSF has supported efforts to update regulations and allow the use of this technology in several states and in response to this proposal, submitted a formal letter of support to the Commission.
In Nebraska, the Game and Parks Commission is considering a proposal to allow archery hunters to carry a handgun for self-defense purposes while archery hunting. Again, CSF submitted a formal letter of support for this proposed amendment which, if approved, would make Nebraska the 38th state to allow hunters to possess handguns while archery hunting.
To remain informed and engaged, sportsmen and women are encouraged to check their state fish and game commission’s website and take advantage of opportunities to participate in public comment periods. These opportunities for stakeholder engagement are important for agency officials charged with balancing the management of our public trust resources with the needs of the public for whom they are managing these resources for.
Michigan Legislation Would Preserve the Fair Chase Ethic
- Michigan House Bill 4050 would uphold the Fair Chase Doctrine by exempting Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from having to disclose information related to the location of game animals in response to public information requests.
- Through the execution of their duties, MI DNR staff collect information that, if subject to public disclosure laws, could provide information that would challenge the fair chase ethic.
- This bill was sponsored by Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair John Cherry, and after passing out of both legislative chambers, the bill currently awaits approval on the governor’s desk.
Why it Matters: The Fair Chase Doctrine states that sportsmen and women will act in an ethical and sportsmen-like manner while pursing game and should not have an unfair advantage over the game. House bill 4050 would protect information related to the specific locations of game animals gathered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) during the course of their duties, thus protecting game animals from public information requests by individuals seeking an unfair advantage. This bill also helps protect the integrity of any ongoing scientific studies being conducted by the DNR from individuals who would purposely pursue game because they know a study is being conducted in that location.
House Bill 4050 (HB 4050), introduced by Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative John Cherry earlier this year, has made its way to the governor’s desk. This bill will exempt the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from being required to disclose information related to the exact location of game animals obtained through the course of their work from public information requests. Specifically, the bill states that the DNR would be exempt from sharing “records or information that would reveal the specific location or GPS coordinates of game, including, but not limited to, records or information of the specific location or GPS coordinates of game obtained by the department of natural resources during any restoration, management, or research project.”
HB 4050 was introduced in an effort to uphold the Fair Chase Doctrine and to protect the scientific integrity of ongoing wildlife studies. The Fair Chase Doctrine states that hunters will act in an ethical, sportsman-like, and lawful manner while in pursuit of any free-ranging wild game animal. Hunters acting in this manner should not have an improper or unfair advantage over the game animals they are pursuing. There have been instances in the state where individuals had requested location data for game animals from the DNR as an effort to gain an advantage when pursuing those species. While the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation believes that individuals have a right to obtain information from government entities, that information should not be used to give an individual an unfair and unethical advantage while pursuing game.
After passing with strong bipartisan support in both chambers, HB 4050 currently awaits executive approval on the governor’s desk. Read more information about the Fair Chase Ethic here.
Animal Rights Activists Seek End to Hunting and Fishing in Oregon, CSF Responds
- On June 3, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted comments to the Oregon Secretary of State challenging the ballot title language of Initiative Petition 13 (IP 13), which seeks to end all hunting, fishing, and trapping in Oregon.
- IP 13, if passed, would prohibit the injuring or killing of all mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians, unless it occurs as an act of self-defense. In addition to prohibiting hunting and fishing, this sweeping initiative would impact common animal breeding practices, research, and education.
- Once the final ballot title language is certified, initiative proponents can begin gathering the 112,020 signatures required to place the initiative on the 2022 ballot.
Why It Matters: Oregon’s hunters, anglers, and trappers have long played a vital role in funding conservation and wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays — public benefits” structure, Oregon’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). These funds are generated through fishing and hunting license sales and through an 11% excise tax paid on sporting-related goods via the Pittman-Robertson Act. In addition to IP 13 restricting over 940,000 sportsmen and women from their outdoor pursuits of hunting, fishing, and trapping, the prohibition on these activities would result in a substantial decrease of revenue for Oregon’s critical conservation, habitat restoration, and wildlife management efforts.
“End Animal Cruelty,” an animal rights activist group in Oregon, has proposed an initiative to be placed on the 2022 ballot that would eliminate all hunting, fishing, and trapping in the state of Oregon. Initiative Petition 13 (IP 13) would prohibit the injuring and killing of any mammal, fish, reptile, or amphibian, unless it resulted from an act of self-defense. The initiative would also make it a felony to engage in common animal breeding practices, including for domestic animals.
If passed, IP 13 would immediately impact Oregon’s 940,000 sportsmen and women who participate in the outdoors in support of conservation efforts, food procurement, and tradition. For generations, Oregonians from across the state have relied on Oregon’s rich natural bounty to provide fresh meat and fish for their families. The proposed initiative would also significantly impact the state’s ability to manage and protect its natural resources, wildlife, and public lands.
Without sportsmen-generated revenue through license and tag sales, along with the excise tax revenue generated through Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson for sporting-related purchases, ODFW would have their budget drastically cut by almost one half. ODFW, the primary stewards of protecting and enhancing the states’ wildlife and their habitat, would lose over $50 million dollars annually from hunting and fishing license sales alone.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted comments to the Oregon Secretary of State on June 3 challenging the proposed ballot title language for not adequately notifying voters as to the sweeping and profound effects of IP 13 if passed. After a review of these comments and any modification, the Secretary of State will finalize the ballot title language, which clears the hurdle for the “End Animal Cruelty” campaign to begin gathering the 112,020 signatures necessary to place it on the 2022 ballot. CSF will continue working in opposition to IP 13 throughout this process.
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