GIFT SUBSCRIPTIONS REQUIRE NO SHIPPING, EMAIL SENT STRAIGHT TO THEIR INBOX. GIFT NOW!
GIFT SUBSCRIPTIONS REQUIRE NO SHIPPING, EMAIL SENT STRAIGHT TO THEIR INBOX. GIFT NOW!
Subscribe Today
ADVERTISEMENT

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2024

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2024

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2024

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2024

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
‘‘

CSF ACTIVELY WORKING BOTH PRO AND ANTI-SPORTSMEN’S BILLS IN TENNESSEE

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: (1) Efforts to end the Sandhill Crane season in the Volunteer State, despite historic Sandhill Crane population levels, are driven by emotion rather than science. (2) Allowing the indiscriminate baiting of Tennessee’s wildlife would contravene rules established by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Fish and Game Commission. (3) Poaching stands as one of the greatest threats to the social acceptance of hunting and professional wildlife management.

Highlights:

  • CSF is opposing House Bill 1867 and Senate Bill 1876 that would prohibit the hunting of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee. Both bills await committee action.
  • CSF is opposing House Bill 1618 and Senate Bill 1942 that would allow for indiscriminate baiting of Tennessee’s wildlife on private land. HB 1618 is moving through the legislative process and is on the State Government Committee calendar for February 21.
  • CSF is advocating for House Bill 2141 and Senate Bill 1751 that would increase the penalty from a Class C to a Class B misdemeanor and increase fines for removing a wild animal, wild fowl or fish while trespassing. HB 2141 is on the State Government Committee calendar for February 21.

HB 1867/SB 1876: The Sandhill Crane is one the many significant wildlife conservation success stories supported by sportsmen generated funding through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding and other sportsmen-led conservation policy initiatives, including the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act.  Once numbered at less than 200 birds in the United States less than 100 years ago, the population has soared to over 1.4 million. One of the seven key tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is that policy is formulated using the best available science. These legislative attempts to end the Sandhill Crane season have no scientific support. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), alongside Delta Waterfowl, Safari Club International, and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, submitted comments to the Tennessee House Departments and Agencies Subcommittee and the Tennessee Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee opposing the bills and expressing support for science-based wildlife management conducted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

HB 1618/SB 1942: Through its public input process, the TWRA promulgates science-based regulations, which is in-line with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation’s recommendation for wildlife policy formulation. CSF recently submitted comments to the Tennessee House Departments and Agencies Subcommittee and the Tennessee Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee opposing HB 1618/SB 1942 which would eliminate the existing science-based regulatory process for making decisions on baiting and instead legislatively dictate various allowances. CSF supports the TWRA and its Commission retaining this authority to ensure science-based management for wildlife continues unfettered.

HB 2141/SB 1751: Poaching is one of the greatest threats to the social acceptance of hunting. The actions of poachers are often at the center of arguments utilized by anti-hunting groups that attempt to conflate poaching with hunting. SB 1751, sponsored by Tennessee Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Senator Paul Rose, and HB 2141, sponsored by Caucus Member Representative Caleb Hemmer, would increase various fines and penalties for poachers. CSF submitted comments to the House State Government Committee and the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee supporting these bills and is strongly advocating for their passage, while supporting sportsmen and women who hunt and fish legally.

CSF will continue to work with the Caucus and conservation partners to protect the interests of sportsmen and women in the Volunteer State.

States Involved: TN

 

 

CSF-SUPPORTED LEGISLATION TO REMOVE PROHIBITION ON SUNDAY MIGRATORY GAME BIRD HUNTING INTRODUCED IN DELAWARE AND MARYLAND

ARTICLE CONTACT: KALEIGH LEAGER

Why It Matters: Currently, if you go game bird hunting in Maryland and Delaware, you can only do so Monday-Saturday. Maryland House Bill 778 (MD HB 778) seeks to remove the legislative prohibition on Sunday migratory game bird hunting (waterfowl and dove), while Delaware House Bill 271 (DE HB 271) seeks to remove the Sunday hunting prohibition for all game birds (waterfowl, dove, turkey, pheasant, quail, chukar, etc.). If both MD HB 778 and DE HB 271 pass, both states will be one step closer to joining the 42 other states that currently allow Sunday hunting for migratory game birds. 

Highlights:

  • Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair, Delegate Kevin Hornberger, is the primary sponsor of MD HB 778.
  • Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member, Representative William Carson, is the primary House sponsor of DE HB 271, with several fellow Caucus members as co-sponsors.
  • Maryland House Bill 778 has a committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, February 21 in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will be on the ground in Annapolis to testify on the bill and will also be submitting a letter of support to the Committee.
  • Delaware House Bill 271 passed both the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee and the House Floor unanimously. A hearing date in the Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee has not yet been scheduled. CSF submitted a letter of support for the hearing in the House and will be strongly advocating for the bill’s passage throughout the legislative process.

Sunday hunting bans are one of the last remaining examples of the puritanical and antiquated laws that were initially designed to encourage church attendance.  At the time when blue law restrictions were first put in place, other activities that were illegal on a Sunday included opening a store for business, drinking alcoholic beverages, and tilling your fields. Access is a major limiting factor hindering participation in hunting, and restrictions on Sunday hunting provide a temporal-access barrier to youth and others that work or attend school throughout the week and are often involved in extra-curricular activities on Saturdays. The access parity issue among Maryland and Delaware’s outdoor community is that the Sunday prohibitions are discriminatory to Maryland and Delaware’s sportsmen and women, excluding deer hunters.

While the passage of MD HB 778 and DE HB 271 does not mandate Sunday migratory game bird and non-migratory game bird hunting, it will lift the dated laws that are still in place today, allowing the MD DNR and the DE DNREC (each state’s primary and most well-equipped wildlife managers) to regulate their season dates to ensure that science-based management decisions are being made, rather than the political bodies that change after every election cycle. Specifically,

  • MD HB 778 eliminates the prohibition against hunting migratory game birds on Sunday’s (Maryland COMAR Section 10-410(a)(13)). The Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) will still have the authority to establish and regulate season dates, bag limits and enforcement for the hunting of game birds but removes the legislative prohibition for Sunday migratory game bird hunting that is currently in statute.
  • DE HB 271 eliminates the prohibition against hunting game birds on Sunday (Delaware Code section 712 of Title 7). The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DE DNREC) will still have the authority to establish and regulate season dates, bag limits and enforcement for the hunting of game birds but removes the legislative prohibition for Sunday game bird hunting that is currently in statute.

CSF looks forward to continuing to work with the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and the Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to champion both bills through the legislative process to come.

States Involved: DE / MD

 

 

FUTURE HUNTING AND FISHING ACCESS THREATENED IN SOUTH DAKOTA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JAKE GOULD

Why It Matters: Like many Midwestern states, approximately 80% of the land in South Dakota is privately owned, making public access for sportsmen and women a limiting factor in the state. The Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP), relies heavily on limited public lands to promote quality fish and wildlife conservation efforts while providing public access opportunities. To maximize their ability to achieve the Department’s mission, the GFP utilizes sportsmen-generated dollars, along with federal moneys, to acquire land from willing sellers. South Dakota House Bill 1180 would have required legislative approval for any land purchases made by GFP, creating an unnecessary step for the agency and hindering their ability to quickly and efficiently take advantage of opportunities to acquire property from willing sellers.

Highlights:

  • Last week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) provided formal testimony in opposition of South Dakota House Bill 1180 as it was heard in Committee.
  • House Bill 1180 (HB 1180) would have required GFP to have legislative approval for all land purchases, crippling their ability to acquire lands in a timely manner when opportunities arise.
  • HB 1180 was ultimately tabled during its hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, safeguarding GFP’s ability to acquire lands as needed when opportunities become available.

Last week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted formal testimony to the South Dakota House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in opposition to House Bill 1180. HB 1180 sought to require all land purchases made by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP), which would have ultimately hindered GFP’s ability to quickly and efficiently take advantage of opportunities to acquire property from willing sellers, many of whom cherish the idea of knowing their lands will be used for the benefit of all South Dakotans.

For sportsmen and women, lack of access and increasing competition for limited public lands are widely cited as primary reasons that hunters and anglers no longer participate in these outdoor activities. With more than 80% of South Dakota’s lands in private ownership, GFP also relies on limited public lands for their fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation efforts for the benefit of all South Dakotans. By requiring GFP to receive legislative approval for the purchase of any land, the agency is likely to miss out on opportunities to make offers on quality land and increase public access for South Dakota’s sportsmen and women. Given the importance of outdoor recreation to the Mount Rushmore State’s economy, opportunities to increase public land access should be celebrated and efficiently facilitated, not stymied by additional layers of oversight and hurdles.

HB 1180 was tabled during its hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and will no longer be considered during this legislative session. Because of this, GFP will continue to be able to make land purchases completed in coordination with willing sellers, and increase public land access opportunities, as well as increase their fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation efforts.

States Involved: SD

 

 

OKLAHOMA SESSION OFF TO A HOT START

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: Though their legislative session started later than many other states, Oklahoma has wasted little time moving several key pieces of legislation that will be important to sportsmen and women. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is working closely with in-state partners and members of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to protect and advance opportunities for sportsmen and women in the Sooner State while supporting the American System of Conservation Funding.

Highlights:

  • The Oklahoma Legislature has been back in session for three weeks and is already moving on several key pieces of legislation related to our time-honored outdoor traditions.
  • Chief among the list of bills moving already are: House Bill 4086 which would increase the fee of the state’s waterfowl stamp and House Bill 3429 which would create a sales tax holiday for rifle ammunition ahead of the state’s firearms deer season.
  • In addition to these and other priorities, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is continuing our support for Senate Bill 941, a bill that is the culmination of many years of effort by the agency and the sporting-conservation community, which would significantly overhaul and simplify Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing license structure while providing much-needed funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Though their 2024 legislative session began several weeks after many other midwestern states, Oklahoma has wasted little time moving on legislation relevant to sportsmen and women. These efforts include many priorities led by members and leaders of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. An overview of a couple key pieces of legislation and an update on a priority carried over from the 2023 session are provided below.

House Bill 4086 – This bill, originally titled the Oklahoma Wildlife Act of 2024, began as a “shell bill” that was designed to be amended as priorities arise after the state’s bill filing deadline. Since that time, HB 4086 has, in fact, been amended to be authored by Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Representative Kevin Wallace and would now create a much-needed price increase of Oklahoma’s waterfowl stamp. This CSF-supported bill was heard in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee last week and passed out of Committee with unanimous consent.

House Bill 3429 – This priority bill would create a sales tax holiday for rifle ammunition during the weekend leading up to Oklahoma’s firearms deer season. Outdoor sporting goods sales tax holidays represent a great incentive for sportsmen and women, encouraging them to purchase additional gear or supplies while contributing to the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. Like HB 4086, HB 3429 was heard in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee where it was also passed.

Senate Bill 941 – Finally, this priority bill would significantly simplify Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing license framework while providing much needed price increases necessary to support the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. This bill was introduced in 2023 and carried over into the 2024 session, where it awaits further action on the House Floor. CSF and partners maintain their support for this bill and the benefits that it would provide for sportsmen and women, as well as conservation efforts, in Oklahoma.

States Involved: OK

 

 

CSF SUPPORTS SAFEGUARDING FUNDING FOR MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE, FISHERIES, AND PARKS

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE

Why It Matters: Every year bills are introduced that would allow individuals to purchase a free or heavily discounted hunting and/or fishing license. House Bill 300 would require that the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) be reimbursed for any lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses, admission to state parks, and other fees through the State General Fund, further protecting funding for conservation in Mississippi.

Highlights:

  • On January 18, National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council Member and Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Representative Scott Bounds filed House Bill 300.
  • On February 7, House Bill 300 passed the House Committee on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks unanimously.
  • On February 12, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter in support of House Bill 300 to the Mississippi House of Representatives and is actively working it through the legislative process.

While legislators tend to target deserving groups for free or heavily discounted hunting/fishing licenses, such as first responders or veterans, these bills could have a significant impact on conservation funding for their respective state’s fish and wildlife agency. That is where legislation that reimburses the state fish and wildlife agency for revenue lost due to the creation of free and discounted hunting licenses comes in to play to protect conservation funding. Sportsmen and women in Mississippi contribute over $30 million annually to conservation funding through the “user pays — public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). Revenue generated from the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses is instrumental to the success of the ASCF.

CSF’s letter stated, “Since 2019, there have been no fewer than nine bills introduced intended to provide certain groups with free or heavily discounted hunting and fishing licenses in Mississippi. While certain groups absolutely deserve recognition for their contributions to society, there are alternate methods of recognizing them without negatively impacting the entity charged with conserving resources held in the public trust. If passed, this legislation would bring Mississippi alongside Michigan, New Jersey, and Tennessee where state fish and wildlife agency funding is protected from impacts resulting from the passage of free or discounted licenses. It is also important to note that the legislation is not retroactive. No free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses, or other discounted fees provided by MDWFP, that were passed prior to the effective date of HB 300 would be affected.”

House Bill 300 was recommitted to the House Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee for further discussion, and CSF looks forward to continuing to work alongside the Caucus to advance this important piece of legislation.

States Involved: MS

 

 

CSC MEMBERS INTRODUCE KEEP PUBLIC LANDS IN PUBLIC HANDS ACT

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: Public access to public lands and waters is critical to maintaining opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting. GPS and other technologies have significantly changed how sportsmen and women navigate public lands as well as their ability to identity new lands for recreational access that may previously have been unknown or unclear. With these technologies in mind, it is critical that increased scrutiny is provided before federal agencies sale or transfer public lands, with certain exceptions, to ensure that recreational access is not inadvertently hindered.  

Highlights:

  • Last week, Congressman Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Ryan Zinke and Gabe Vasquez introduced H.R. 7430, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act.
  • This legislation, strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), will provide increased scrutiny over the sale or transfer of public lands with certain exceptions.
  • The primary purpose of this legislation is to provide Congressional oversight over the disposal of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) that provide recreational value for sportsmen and women, among other users of public lands.

On February 20, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act was introduced in a bipartisan fashion by CSC Member Rep. Ryan Zinke and CSC Member Rep. Gabe Vasquez. This legislation will establish an important emphasis on the recreational value of BLM and USFS parcels identified for disposal.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) is an overarching law that governs how our nation’s public lands are managed and governed. FLPMA requires that federal agencies, including the BLM and USFS, must periodically review their land holdings and identify lands that are appropriate for disposal or exchange. Historically, lands identified for disposal under FLPMA were often focused on small parcels that were viewed as low priority for access purposes or because resource value was low, among other factors. However, with GPS technologies and other technological advancements that have changed how sportsmen and women navigate public lands, historically low priority lands have become more valuable for recreational purposes.

Specifically, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act requires Congressional approval for the sale or transfer of publicly accessible lands that are greater than 300 acres and water accessible lands that are greater than five acres. Under current law, Congress does not need to provide oversight over the sale or transfer of parcels of FLPMA identified parcels regardless of size. This legislation establishes an important threshold to maintain public access for sportsmen and women while recognizing that smaller, less recreationally important lands are suitable for disposal. This legislation does not prevent or prohibit the transfer or sale of public lands. Nor does this legislation undermine important land transaction programs that help increase access such as the Federal Lands Transaction Facilitation Act. Rather, this legislation establishes an important threshold to ensure that important recreational lands and water are scrutinized and approved by Congress before being sold or transferred.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks CSC Members Reps. Zinke and Vazquez for introducing this important legislation, and we look forward to working with them to maintain access for sportsmen and women.

 

 

EFFORT TO SIMPLIFY OKLAHOMA’S HUNTING AND FISHING LICENSES AND INCREASE FEES PASSES HOUSE

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: The acquisition of hunting and fishing licenses should not be an overly complicated process. However, as license frameworks evolve over time and more licenses are added, it is easy for hunters, anglers, and trappers to become confused when trying to ensure that they are properly licensed. Fortunately, sportsmen and women in the Sooner State are one step closer to a simplified system that, thanks to what will be the state’s first license fee increase in over two decades, will continue to support conservation funding.

Highlights:

  • Last week, Oklahoma Senate Bill 941 was amended on the House Floor and passed by an overwhelming margin during Oklahoma’s Sportsmen’s Day at the Capitol.
  • The amendments made in the House further increased many license fees, ensuring that hunters and anglers are able to continue to serve as the sole source of funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
  • In support of the effort, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and Ducks Unlimited joined forces to host the Sportsmen’s Day activities which included a breakfast briefing on SB 941.

Last Wednesday, during Oklahoma’s Sportsmen’s Day at the Capitol, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved positive amendments to Senate Bill 941 and passed the legislation out of the House by a vote of 88-3. Ahead of this vote, members of the Sooner State’s sporting-conservation community participated in Sportsmen’s Day activities which included a breakfast briefing on SB 941, an opportunity for legislators to visit with groups throughout the Capitol and culminated in the House’s actions on SB 941 later in the day.

During the breakfast briefing, members of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus heard from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), Ducks Unlimited (DU), and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). The discussion included an overview of the American System of Conservation Funding, the unique “user pays – public benefits” framework that serves as the sole source of revenue for ODWC. This was followed by an update on SB 941, a much-needed update to Oklahoma’s convoluted hunting and fishing license structure that, along with some associated fee increases, will simplify opportunities for hunters and anglers while ensuring their ability to support ODWC’s conservation efforts.

In addition to the wide support for SB 941 demonstrated by both the sporting-conservation community and the Oklahoma House of Representatives as indicated by the bill’s margin of passage, several members of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus further solidified their support by adding their names to the list of the bill’s co-sponsors. SB 941 now returns to the Senate for potential concurrence with the House’s amendments. CSF will continue to monitor this legislation and provide additional updates as it moves through the legislative process.

States Involved: OK

 

 

CSF SPEARHEADS COALITION LETTER SUPPORTING CONSERVATION LEGISLATION IN MISSISSIPPI

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE

Why It Matters: Mississippi continues to fight challenges such as the rapid spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and legislative initiatives aimed at giving groups free/discounted hunting and fishing licenses which threatens the success of the American System of Conservation. Additionally, it is paramount that the Mississippi Legislature works in lockstep with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP), MDWFP’s Commission, and the greater sportsmen’s community to promote science-based management through the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and it also critical for the Mississippi Legislature to protect and enhance funding for conservation.   

Highlights:

  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), along with a coalition of seven other conservation organizations, submitted a letter in support of four bills to support fish and wildlife conservation in the Magnolia State.
  • CSF supports House Bill 43 and House Bill 731, which would further align wildlife management in Mississippi with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
  • CSF supports House Bill 300, which would further protect conservation funding by requiring the MDWFP be reimbursed for lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses by the Mississippi Legislature.
  • CSF supports House Bill 733 which would dedicate a portion of pre-existing sales tax on specific outdoor recreation equipment to the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.

HB 43: Wildlife being held in the public trust and wildlife policy formulated using sound scientific principles are arguably the two most important components of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. HB 43, authored by Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Representative Bill Kinkade, codifies the MDWFP’s and its Commission’s responsibility to the citizens of Mississippi to defend the public’s interest in the state’s wildlife and make wildlife management decisions based on the best available science. HB 43 passed the House of Representatives unanimously and awaits action in the Senate Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee.

HB 300:  This legislation, authored by NASC Executive Council Member and Caucus Co-Chair Representative Scott Bounds, would bring Mississippi alongside Michigan, New Jersey, and Tennessee where state fish and wildlife agency funding is protected from impacts resulting from the passage of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses. MDWFP would be reimbursed for any lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses, admission to state parks, and other fees provided by the MDWFP through the State General Fund. HB 300 previously passed the House Committee on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks by a unanimous vote but has been recommitted to the same committee for further discussion.

HB 731: The statutory prohibition on the sale of game birds, game animals, and game fish would further align Mississippi Code with the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. HB 731, authored by Caucus Member Representative Bill Kinkade, awaits action in the House Committee on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

HB 733: Dedicating a percentage of the existing sales tax on sporting goods to conservation funding, the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund can improve its capability to capitalize on matching private conservation dollars as well as federal funds through various fish, wildlife, and natural resource conservation programs. HB 733, authored by Caucus Member Representative Bill Kinkade, awaits action in the House Ways and Means Committee.

CSF will continue to work alongside the Caucus and our conservation partners to ensure that the Mississippi Legislature works with the sportsmen’s community to support conservation funding and maintain science-based management of Mississippi’s fish and wildlife resources.

States Involved: MS

 

 

NASC LEGISLATORS FROM 41 STATES WEIGH IN ON FARM BILL DEBATE

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: The National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) is a unique network of pro-sportsmen state legislators from across the country. Given the connection that state legislators share directly with their constituents, opportunities to engage NASC in federal conversations provides an opportunity to further demonstrate support for our time-honored outdoor traditions at both the state and federal levels. Recently, NASC Caucus leaders from 41 states united in support of robust investments in the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles, highlighting a nationwide commitment to voluntary, incentive-based conservation opportunities.

Highlights:

  • A letter from more than 70 state legislators representing 41 NASC-member states was submitted to the House Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee to voice support for investments in the Conservation and Forestry Titles of the next Farm Bill.
  • This unprecedented display of support from around the country demonstrates the importance of the Farm Bill’s conservation programs around the nation, as well as the leadership of the NASC network in supporting America’s sportsmen and women.
  • After expiring last September, the 2018 Farm Bill received a one-year extension, and discussions surrounding the next full Farm Bill are ongoing.

In an unprecedented demonstration of support, more than 70 state legislators from 41 NASC-member states submitted a letter to Congressional leaders calling for robust investments in the next Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles. Responsible for supporting many of the most well-known fish and wildlife habitat conservation and sportsmen access programs in the world – including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) – the Farm Bill’s Conservation Title’s voluntary, incentive-based private lands programs represent a top priority for sportsmen and women.

State legislators share a close connection with their local constituencies and are often well-positioned to engage with their colleagues in Congress as it relates to federal legislation. This is particularly true in the case of NASC members around the nation given their dedication to supporting the sportsmen and women in their districts. Leveraging this voice in recognition of the local, regional, and national benefits supported through the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Title programs further demonstrates the value that these programs provide on the ground and around the country.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is proud to work with Congress, governors, and state legislators in support of our mission to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping. This mission also includes support for well-funded opportunities to provide quality fish and wildlife habitat and adequate access for sportsmen and women. Recognizing this, CSF is proud to support the NASC legislators who signed onto this letter and will continue to facilitate opportunities to elevate the voice of state legislators through CSF’s state-federal nexus.

 

 

CSF LEADS COALITION OPPOSED TO RESTRUCTURING THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE RESOURCES

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is widely recognized as one of the most successful models of wildlife conservation in the world, and one of its key components is that wildlife harvest is allocated by law, including regulatory decisions made by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) Commission. Through the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding, sportsmen and women largely pay for the management of public trust fish and wildlife resources, and while the agriculture and sporting communities share similar interests, the changes proposed in Senate Bill 3 could lead to regulations addressing agricultural priorities conflicting with professional, science-based fish and wildlife management.

Highlights:

  • Senate Bill 3 would (1) administratively attach the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) to the Department of Agriculture and (2) authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture to appoint all members of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission.
  • No state fish and wildlife agency in the country is attached to their respective department of agriculture, as proposed in Senate Bill 3.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) coordinated an action alert with conservation partners asking sportsmen and women in Kentucky to encourage their elected officials to oppose Senate Bill 3.
  • CSF also submitted written testimony to the Senate Agriculture Committee, where the bill currently awaits legislative action.

The current KDFWR Commission appointment process, which is not directly tied to business interests, has been successful in managing Kentucky’s fish and wildlife resources. White-tailed deer, wild turkey, and elk have been successfully restored with sportsmen-generated dollars, and Kentucky now has the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi River and is a renowned state for hunting and fishing. Kentucky’s first case of Chronic Wasting Disease was confirmed last year, and this highlights the importance of maintaining science-based wildlife management. The KDFWR and Commission should primarily serve Kentucky’s fish and wildlife resources and the sportsmen and women of Kentucky, not agricultural interests.

Additionally, Senate Bill 3 contains an emergency clause that, if enacted, would allow the Commissioner of Agriculture to immediately begin making appointments to the KDFWR Commission. Currently, five of nine Commission seats are vacant and would therefore be subject to appointment by the Commissioner of Agriculture, potentially leading to an immediate overhaul of the KDFWR Commission favoring agricultural interests.

CSF is strongly opposed to this legislation and will continue working with our partners working to protect Kentucky’s sporting heritage from the intrusion of agricultural interests into wildlife management.

States Involved: KY

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2024 This article is published in the issue.
Click here to purchase this black issue
Intrested in buying other back issues?
Click here
FILED IN: ,
ARTICLES FROM THE OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2015 ISSUE
Life in Bronze

Filed In: ,

Liz Lewis employs several foundries in the Bozeman area to cast her lost-wax-style work. Recently, she has begun exploring the use of colored patinas to reproduce the coloration of sporting......

Being at Brays

Filed In: , , , ,

Located outside of Savannah, Georgia, and proximate to the charming coastal town of Beaufort, South Carolina, and within a short drive of Charleston—the current capital of Southern lifestyle—Brays...

Curated Fashions

Filed In: , ,

After spending more than eight years in the UK running retail shops, Ramona Brumby of Atlanta’s The London Trading Company came home. “My passion is anything to do with décor,......

Inside the October-November 20...

Filed In:

This month’s cover photo of the German shorthaired pointer was taken at Pheasant Ridge by Terry Allen during our June-July 2015 feature coverage of Ferrari. As we traveled to Pheasant......

Bertuzzi Gullwings

Filed In: , , , ,

Bertuzzi shotguns have the unique design characteristic of ali di gabbiano, Italian for “the wings of a gull” as the sideplates spring outward like wings, revealing the lockwork inside. ...

Stealthy Ghosts

Filed In: , , ,

Judy Balog, who owns and runs Silvershot Weimaraners in Michigan with Jerry Gertiser, has owned Weimaraners for more than 20 years....

You may also like

The Kind Approach

In the United Kingdom, dog trainer Ben Randall sho...

Sturdy Brothers Waxed Canva...

This portable piece is handcrafted to last a lifet...

Viski Solid Copper Shot Gla...

These shot glasses are hand crafted and feature an...

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2024

CSF ACTIVELY WORKING BOTH PRO AND ANTI-SPORTSMEN’S BILLS IN TENNESSEE

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: (1) Efforts to end the Sandhill Crane season in the Volunteer State, despite historic Sandhill Crane population levels, are driven by emotion rather than science. (2) Allowing the indiscriminate baiting of Tennessee’s wildlife would contravene rules established by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Fish and Game Commission. (3) Poaching stands as one of the greatest threats to the social acceptance of hunting and professional wildlife management.

Highlights:

  • CSF is opposing House Bill 1867 and Senate Bill 1876 that would prohibit the hunting of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee. Both bills await committee action.
  • CSF is opposing House Bill 1618 and Senate Bill 1942 that would allow for indiscriminate baiting of Tennessee’s wildlife on private land. HB 1618 is moving through the legislative process and is on the State Government Committee calendar for February 21.
  • CSF is advocating for House Bill 2141 and Senate Bill 1751 that would increase the penalty from a Class C to a Class B misdemeanor and increase fines for removing a wild animal, wild fowl or fish while trespassing. HB 2141 is on the State Government Committee calendar for February 21.

HB 1867/SB 1876: The Sandhill Crane is one the many significant wildlife conservation success stories supported by sportsmen generated funding through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding and other sportsmen-led conservation policy initiatives, including the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act.  Once numbered at less than 200 birds in the United States less than 100 years ago, the population has soared to over 1.4 million. One of the seven key tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is that policy is formulated using the best available science. These legislative attempts to end the Sandhill Crane season have no scientific support. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), alongside Delta Waterfowl, Safari Club International, and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, submitted comments to the Tennessee House Departments and Agencies Subcommittee and the Tennessee Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee opposing the bills and expressing support for science-based wildlife management conducted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

HB 1618/SB 1942: Through its public input process, the TWRA promulgates science-based regulations, which is in-line with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation’s recommendation for wildlife policy formulation. CSF recently submitted comments to the Tennessee House Departments and Agencies Subcommittee and the Tennessee Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee opposing HB 1618/SB 1942 which would eliminate the existing science-based regulatory process for making decisions on baiting and instead legislatively dictate various allowances. CSF supports the TWRA and its Commission retaining this authority to ensure science-based management for wildlife continues unfettered.

HB 2141/SB 1751: Poaching is one of the greatest threats to the social acceptance of hunting. The actions of poachers are often at the center of arguments utilized by anti-hunting groups that attempt to conflate poaching with hunting. SB 1751, sponsored by Tennessee Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Senator Paul Rose, and HB 2141, sponsored by Caucus Member Representative Caleb Hemmer, would increase various fines and penalties for poachers. CSF submitted comments to the House State Government Committee and the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee supporting these bills and is strongly advocating for their passage, while supporting sportsmen and women who hunt and fish legally.

CSF will continue to work with the Caucus and conservation partners to protect the interests of sportsmen and women in the Volunteer State.

States Involved: TN

 

 

CSF-SUPPORTED LEGISLATION TO REMOVE PROHIBITION ON SUNDAY MIGRATORY GAME BIRD HUNTING INTRODUCED IN DELAWARE AND MARYLAND

ARTICLE CONTACT: KALEIGH LEAGER

Why It Matters: Currently, if you go game bird hunting in Maryland and Delaware, you can only do so Monday-Saturday. Maryland House Bill 778 (MD HB 778) seeks to remove the legislative prohibition on Sunday migratory game bird hunting (waterfowl and dove), while Delaware House Bill 271 (DE HB 271) seeks to remove the Sunday hunting prohibition for all game birds (waterfowl, dove, turkey, pheasant, quail, chukar, etc.). If both MD HB 778 and DE HB 271 pass, both states will be one step closer to joining the 42 other states that currently allow Sunday hunting for migratory game birds. 

Highlights:

  • Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair, Delegate Kevin Hornberger, is the primary sponsor of MD HB 778.
  • Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member, Representative William Carson, is the primary House sponsor of DE HB 271, with several fellow Caucus members as co-sponsors.
  • Maryland House Bill 778 has a committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, February 21 in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will be on the ground in Annapolis to testify on the bill and will also be submitting a letter of support to the Committee.
  • Delaware House Bill 271 passed both the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee and the House Floor unanimously. A hearing date in the Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee has not yet been scheduled. CSF submitted a letter of support for the hearing in the House and will be strongly advocating for the bill’s passage throughout the legislative process.

Sunday hunting bans are one of the last remaining examples of the puritanical and antiquated laws that were initially designed to encourage church attendance.  At the time when blue law restrictions were first put in place, other activities that were illegal on a Sunday included opening a store for business, drinking alcoholic beverages, and tilling your fields. Access is a major limiting factor hindering participation in hunting, and restrictions on Sunday hunting provide a temporal-access barrier to youth and others that work or attend school throughout the week and are often involved in extra-curricular activities on Saturdays. The access parity issue among Maryland and Delaware’s outdoor community is that the Sunday prohibitions are discriminatory to Maryland and Delaware’s sportsmen and women, excluding deer hunters.

While the passage of MD HB 778 and DE HB 271 does not mandate Sunday migratory game bird and non-migratory game bird hunting, it will lift the dated laws that are still in place today, allowing the MD DNR and the DE DNREC (each state’s primary and most well-equipped wildlife managers) to regulate their season dates to ensure that science-based management decisions are being made, rather than the political bodies that change after every election cycle. Specifically,

  • MD HB 778 eliminates the prohibition against hunting migratory game birds on Sunday’s (Maryland COMAR Section 10-410(a)(13)). The Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) will still have the authority to establish and regulate season dates, bag limits and enforcement for the hunting of game birds but removes the legislative prohibition for Sunday migratory game bird hunting that is currently in statute.
  • DE HB 271 eliminates the prohibition against hunting game birds on Sunday (Delaware Code section 712 of Title 7). The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DE DNREC) will still have the authority to establish and regulate season dates, bag limits and enforcement for the hunting of game birds but removes the legislative prohibition for Sunday game bird hunting that is currently in statute.

CSF looks forward to continuing to work with the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and the Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to champion both bills through the legislative process to come.

States Involved: DE / MD

 

 

FUTURE HUNTING AND FISHING ACCESS THREATENED IN SOUTH DAKOTA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JAKE GOULD

Why It Matters: Like many Midwestern states, approximately 80% of the land in South Dakota is privately owned, making public access for sportsmen and women a limiting factor in the state. The Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP), relies heavily on limited public lands to promote quality fish and wildlife conservation efforts while providing public access opportunities. To maximize their ability to achieve the Department’s mission, the GFP utilizes sportsmen-generated dollars, along with federal moneys, to acquire land from willing sellers. South Dakota House Bill 1180 would have required legislative approval for any land purchases made by GFP, creating an unnecessary step for the agency and hindering their ability to quickly and efficiently take advantage of opportunities to acquire property from willing sellers.

Highlights:

  • Last week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) provided formal testimony in opposition of South Dakota House Bill 1180 as it was heard in Committee.
  • House Bill 1180 (HB 1180) would have required GFP to have legislative approval for all land purchases, crippling their ability to acquire lands in a timely manner when opportunities arise.
  • HB 1180 was ultimately tabled during its hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, safeguarding GFP’s ability to acquire lands as needed when opportunities become available.

Last week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted formal testimony to the South Dakota House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in opposition to House Bill 1180. HB 1180 sought to require all land purchases made by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP), which would have ultimately hindered GFP’s ability to quickly and efficiently take advantage of opportunities to acquire property from willing sellers, many of whom cherish the idea of knowing their lands will be used for the benefit of all South Dakotans.

For sportsmen and women, lack of access and increasing competition for limited public lands are widely cited as primary reasons that hunters and anglers no longer participate in these outdoor activities. With more than 80% of South Dakota’s lands in private ownership, GFP also relies on limited public lands for their fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation efforts for the benefit of all South Dakotans. By requiring GFP to receive legislative approval for the purchase of any land, the agency is likely to miss out on opportunities to make offers on quality land and increase public access for South Dakota’s sportsmen and women. Given the importance of outdoor recreation to the Mount Rushmore State’s economy, opportunities to increase public land access should be celebrated and efficiently facilitated, not stymied by additional layers of oversight and hurdles.

HB 1180 was tabled during its hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and will no longer be considered during this legislative session. Because of this, GFP will continue to be able to make land purchases completed in coordination with willing sellers, and increase public land access opportunities, as well as increase their fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation efforts.

States Involved: SD

 

 

OKLAHOMA SESSION OFF TO A HOT START

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: Though their legislative session started later than many other states, Oklahoma has wasted little time moving several key pieces of legislation that will be important to sportsmen and women. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is working closely with in-state partners and members of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to protect and advance opportunities for sportsmen and women in the Sooner State while supporting the American System of Conservation Funding.

Highlights:

  • The Oklahoma Legislature has been back in session for three weeks and is already moving on several key pieces of legislation related to our time-honored outdoor traditions.
  • Chief among the list of bills moving already are: House Bill 4086 which would increase the fee of the state’s waterfowl stamp and House Bill 3429 which would create a sales tax holiday for rifle ammunition ahead of the state’s firearms deer season.
  • In addition to these and other priorities, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is continuing our support for Senate Bill 941, a bill that is the culmination of many years of effort by the agency and the sporting-conservation community, which would significantly overhaul and simplify Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing license structure while providing much-needed funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Though their 2024 legislative session began several weeks after many other midwestern states, Oklahoma has wasted little time moving on legislation relevant to sportsmen and women. These efforts include many priorities led by members and leaders of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. An overview of a couple key pieces of legislation and an update on a priority carried over from the 2023 session are provided below.

House Bill 4086 – This bill, originally titled the Oklahoma Wildlife Act of 2024, began as a “shell bill” that was designed to be amended as priorities arise after the state’s bill filing deadline. Since that time, HB 4086 has, in fact, been amended to be authored by Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Representative Kevin Wallace and would now create a much-needed price increase of Oklahoma’s waterfowl stamp. This CSF-supported bill was heard in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee last week and passed out of Committee with unanimous consent.

House Bill 3429 – This priority bill would create a sales tax holiday for rifle ammunition during the weekend leading up to Oklahoma’s firearms deer season. Outdoor sporting goods sales tax holidays represent a great incentive for sportsmen and women, encouraging them to purchase additional gear or supplies while contributing to the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. Like HB 4086, HB 3429 was heard in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee where it was also passed.

Senate Bill 941 – Finally, this priority bill would significantly simplify Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing license framework while providing much needed price increases necessary to support the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. This bill was introduced in 2023 and carried over into the 2024 session, where it awaits further action on the House Floor. CSF and partners maintain their support for this bill and the benefits that it would provide for sportsmen and women, as well as conservation efforts, in Oklahoma.

States Involved: OK

 

 

CSF SUPPORTS SAFEGUARDING FUNDING FOR MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE, FISHERIES, AND PARKS

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE

Why It Matters: Every year bills are introduced that would allow individuals to purchase a free or heavily discounted hunting and/or fishing license. House Bill 300 would require that the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) be reimbursed for any lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses, admission to state parks, and other fees through the State General Fund, further protecting funding for conservation in Mississippi.

Highlights:

  • On January 18, National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council Member and Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Representative Scott Bounds filed House Bill 300.
  • On February 7, House Bill 300 passed the House Committee on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks unanimously.
  • On February 12, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter in support of House Bill 300 to the Mississippi House of Representatives and is actively working it through the legislative process.

While legislators tend to target deserving groups for free or heavily discounted hunting/fishing licenses, such as first responders or veterans, these bills could have a significant impact on conservation funding for their respective state’s fish and wildlife agency. That is where legislation that reimburses the state fish and wildlife agency for revenue lost due to the creation of free and discounted hunting licenses comes in to play to protect conservation funding. Sportsmen and women in Mississippi contribute over $30 million annually to conservation funding through the “user pays — public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). Revenue generated from the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses is instrumental to the success of the ASCF.

CSF’s letter stated, “Since 2019, there have been no fewer than nine bills introduced intended to provide certain groups with free or heavily discounted hunting and fishing licenses in Mississippi. While certain groups absolutely deserve recognition for their contributions to society, there are alternate methods of recognizing them without negatively impacting the entity charged with conserving resources held in the public trust. If passed, this legislation would bring Mississippi alongside Michigan, New Jersey, and Tennessee where state fish and wildlife agency funding is protected from impacts resulting from the passage of free or discounted licenses. It is also important to note that the legislation is not retroactive. No free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses, or other discounted fees provided by MDWFP, that were passed prior to the effective date of HB 300 would be affected.”

House Bill 300 was recommitted to the House Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee for further discussion, and CSF looks forward to continuing to work alongside the Caucus to advance this important piece of legislation.

States Involved: MS

 

 

CSC MEMBERS INTRODUCE KEEP PUBLIC LANDS IN PUBLIC HANDS ACT

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: Public access to public lands and waters is critical to maintaining opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting. GPS and other technologies have significantly changed how sportsmen and women navigate public lands as well as their ability to identity new lands for recreational access that may previously have been unknown or unclear. With these technologies in mind, it is critical that increased scrutiny is provided before federal agencies sale or transfer public lands, with certain exceptions, to ensure that recreational access is not inadvertently hindered.  

Highlights:

  • Last week, Congressman Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Ryan Zinke and Gabe Vasquez introduced H.R. 7430, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act.
  • This legislation, strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), will provide increased scrutiny over the sale or transfer of public lands with certain exceptions.
  • The primary purpose of this legislation is to provide Congressional oversight over the disposal of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) that provide recreational value for sportsmen and women, among other users of public lands.

On February 20, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act was introduced in a bipartisan fashion by CSC Member Rep. Ryan Zinke and CSC Member Rep. Gabe Vasquez. This legislation will establish an important emphasis on the recreational value of BLM and USFS parcels identified for disposal.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) is an overarching law that governs how our nation’s public lands are managed and governed. FLPMA requires that federal agencies, including the BLM and USFS, must periodically review their land holdings and identify lands that are appropriate for disposal or exchange. Historically, lands identified for disposal under FLPMA were often focused on small parcels that were viewed as low priority for access purposes or because resource value was low, among other factors. However, with GPS technologies and other technological advancements that have changed how sportsmen and women navigate public lands, historically low priority lands have become more valuable for recreational purposes.

Specifically, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act requires Congressional approval for the sale or transfer of publicly accessible lands that are greater than 300 acres and water accessible lands that are greater than five acres. Under current law, Congress does not need to provide oversight over the sale or transfer of parcels of FLPMA identified parcels regardless of size. This legislation establishes an important threshold to maintain public access for sportsmen and women while recognizing that smaller, less recreationally important lands are suitable for disposal. This legislation does not prevent or prohibit the transfer or sale of public lands. Nor does this legislation undermine important land transaction programs that help increase access such as the Federal Lands Transaction Facilitation Act. Rather, this legislation establishes an important threshold to ensure that important recreational lands and water are scrutinized and approved by Congress before being sold or transferred.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks CSC Members Reps. Zinke and Vazquez for introducing this important legislation, and we look forward to working with them to maintain access for sportsmen and women.

 

 

EFFORT TO SIMPLIFY OKLAHOMA’S HUNTING AND FISHING LICENSES AND INCREASE FEES PASSES HOUSE

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: The acquisition of hunting and fishing licenses should not be an overly complicated process. However, as license frameworks evolve over time and more licenses are added, it is easy for hunters, anglers, and trappers to become confused when trying to ensure that they are properly licensed. Fortunately, sportsmen and women in the Sooner State are one step closer to a simplified system that, thanks to what will be the state’s first license fee increase in over two decades, will continue to support conservation funding.

Highlights:

  • Last week, Oklahoma Senate Bill 941 was amended on the House Floor and passed by an overwhelming margin during Oklahoma’s Sportsmen’s Day at the Capitol.
  • The amendments made in the House further increased many license fees, ensuring that hunters and anglers are able to continue to serve as the sole source of funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
  • In support of the effort, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and Ducks Unlimited joined forces to host the Sportsmen’s Day activities which included a breakfast briefing on SB 941.

Last Wednesday, during Oklahoma’s Sportsmen’s Day at the Capitol, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved positive amendments to Senate Bill 941 and passed the legislation out of the House by a vote of 88-3. Ahead of this vote, members of the Sooner State’s sporting-conservation community participated in Sportsmen’s Day activities which included a breakfast briefing on SB 941, an opportunity for legislators to visit with groups throughout the Capitol and culminated in the House’s actions on SB 941 later in the day.

During the breakfast briefing, members of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus heard from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), Ducks Unlimited (DU), and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). The discussion included an overview of the American System of Conservation Funding, the unique “user pays – public benefits” framework that serves as the sole source of revenue for ODWC. This was followed by an update on SB 941, a much-needed update to Oklahoma’s convoluted hunting and fishing license structure that, along with some associated fee increases, will simplify opportunities for hunters and anglers while ensuring their ability to support ODWC’s conservation efforts.

In addition to the wide support for SB 941 demonstrated by both the sporting-conservation community and the Oklahoma House of Representatives as indicated by the bill’s margin of passage, several members of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus further solidified their support by adding their names to the list of the bill’s co-sponsors. SB 941 now returns to the Senate for potential concurrence with the House’s amendments. CSF will continue to monitor this legislation and provide additional updates as it moves through the legislative process.

States Involved: OK

 

 

CSF SPEARHEADS COALITION LETTER SUPPORTING CONSERVATION LEGISLATION IN MISSISSIPPI

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE

Why It Matters: Mississippi continues to fight challenges such as the rapid spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and legislative initiatives aimed at giving groups free/discounted hunting and fishing licenses which threatens the success of the American System of Conservation. Additionally, it is paramount that the Mississippi Legislature works in lockstep with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP), MDWFP’s Commission, and the greater sportsmen’s community to promote science-based management through the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and it also critical for the Mississippi Legislature to protect and enhance funding for conservation.   

Highlights:

  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), along with a coalition of seven other conservation organizations, submitted a letter in support of four bills to support fish and wildlife conservation in the Magnolia State.
  • CSF supports House Bill 43 and House Bill 731, which would further align wildlife management in Mississippi with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
  • CSF supports House Bill 300, which would further protect conservation funding by requiring the MDWFP be reimbursed for lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses by the Mississippi Legislature.
  • CSF supports House Bill 733 which would dedicate a portion of pre-existing sales tax on specific outdoor recreation equipment to the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.

HB 43: Wildlife being held in the public trust and wildlife policy formulated using sound scientific principles are arguably the two most important components of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. HB 43, authored by Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Representative Bill Kinkade, codifies the MDWFP’s and its Commission’s responsibility to the citizens of Mississippi to defend the public’s interest in the state’s wildlife and make wildlife management decisions based on the best available science. HB 43 passed the House of Representatives unanimously and awaits action in the Senate Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee.

HB 300:  This legislation, authored by NASC Executive Council Member and Caucus Co-Chair Representative Scott Bounds, would bring Mississippi alongside Michigan, New Jersey, and Tennessee where state fish and wildlife agency funding is protected from impacts resulting from the passage of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses. MDWFP would be reimbursed for any lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses, admission to state parks, and other fees provided by the MDWFP through the State General Fund. HB 300 previously passed the House Committee on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks by a unanimous vote but has been recommitted to the same committee for further discussion.

HB 731: The statutory prohibition on the sale of game birds, game animals, and game fish would further align Mississippi Code with the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. HB 731, authored by Caucus Member Representative Bill Kinkade, awaits action in the House Committee on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

HB 733: Dedicating a percentage of the existing sales tax on sporting goods to conservation funding, the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund can improve its capability to capitalize on matching private conservation dollars as well as federal funds through various fish, wildlife, and natural resource conservation programs. HB 733, authored by Caucus Member Representative Bill Kinkade, awaits action in the House Ways and Means Committee.

CSF will continue to work alongside the Caucus and our conservation partners to ensure that the Mississippi Legislature works with the sportsmen’s community to support conservation funding and maintain science-based management of Mississippi’s fish and wildlife resources.

States Involved: MS

 

 

NASC LEGISLATORS FROM 41 STATES WEIGH IN ON FARM BILL DEBATE

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: The National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) is a unique network of pro-sportsmen state legislators from across the country. Given the connection that state legislators share directly with their constituents, opportunities to engage NASC in federal conversations provides an opportunity to further demonstrate support for our time-honored outdoor traditions at both the state and federal levels. Recently, NASC Caucus leaders from 41 states united in support of robust investments in the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles, highlighting a nationwide commitment to voluntary, incentive-based conservation opportunities.

Highlights:

  • A letter from more than 70 state legislators representing 41 NASC-member states was submitted to the House Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee to voice support for investments in the Conservation and Forestry Titles of the next Farm Bill.
  • This unprecedented display of support from around the country demonstrates the importance of the Farm Bill’s conservation programs around the nation, as well as the leadership of the NASC network in supporting America’s sportsmen and women.
  • After expiring last September, the 2018 Farm Bill received a one-year extension, and discussions surrounding the next full Farm Bill are ongoing.

In an unprecedented demonstration of support, more than 70 state legislators from 41 NASC-member states submitted a letter to Congressional leaders calling for robust investments in the next Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles. Responsible for supporting many of the most well-known fish and wildlife habitat conservation and sportsmen access programs in the world – including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) – the Farm Bill’s Conservation Title’s voluntary, incentive-based private lands programs represent a top priority for sportsmen and women.

State legislators share a close connection with their local constituencies and are often well-positioned to engage with their colleagues in Congress as it relates to federal legislation. This is particularly true in the case of NASC members around the nation given their dedication to supporting the sportsmen and women in their districts. Leveraging this voice in recognition of the local, regional, and national benefits supported through the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Title programs further demonstrates the value that these programs provide on the ground and around the country.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is proud to work with Congress, governors, and state legislators in support of our mission to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping. This mission also includes support for well-funded opportunities to provide quality fish and wildlife habitat and adequate access for sportsmen and women. Recognizing this, CSF is proud to support the NASC legislators who signed onto this letter and will continue to facilitate opportunities to elevate the voice of state legislators through CSF’s state-federal nexus.

 

 

CSF LEADS COALITION OPPOSED TO RESTRUCTURING THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE RESOURCES

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is widely recognized as one of the most successful models of wildlife conservation in the world, and one of its key components is that wildlife harvest is allocated by law, including regulatory decisions made by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) Commission. Through the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding, sportsmen and women largely pay for the management of public trust fish and wildlife resources, and while the agriculture and sporting communities share similar interests, the changes proposed in Senate Bill 3 could lead to regulations addressing agricultural priorities conflicting with professional, science-based fish and wildlife management.

Highlights:

  • Senate Bill 3 would (1) administratively attach the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) to the Department of Agriculture and (2) authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture to appoint all members of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission.
  • No state fish and wildlife agency in the country is attached to their respective department of agriculture, as proposed in Senate Bill 3.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) coordinated an action alert with conservation partners asking sportsmen and women in Kentucky to encourage their elected officials to oppose Senate Bill 3.
  • CSF also submitted written testimony to the Senate Agriculture Committee, where the bill currently awaits legislative action.

The current KDFWR Commission appointment process, which is not directly tied to business interests, has been successful in managing Kentucky’s fish and wildlife resources. White-tailed deer, wild turkey, and elk have been successfully restored with sportsmen-generated dollars, and Kentucky now has the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi River and is a renowned state for hunting and fishing. Kentucky’s first case of Chronic Wasting Disease was confirmed last year, and this highlights the importance of maintaining science-based wildlife management. The KDFWR and Commission should primarily serve Kentucky’s fish and wildlife resources and the sportsmen and women of Kentucky, not agricultural interests.

Additionally, Senate Bill 3 contains an emergency clause that, if enacted, would allow the Commissioner of Agriculture to immediately begin making appointments to the KDFWR Commission. Currently, five of nine Commission seats are vacant and would therefore be subject to appointment by the Commissioner of Agriculture, potentially leading to an immediate overhaul of the KDFWR Commission favoring agricultural interests.

CSF is strongly opposed to this legislation and will continue working with our partners working to protect Kentucky’s sporting heritage from the intrusion of agricultural interests into wildlife management.

States Involved: KY

You may also like

Purina Celebrates 127th Ann...

The role corn plays for gamebirds and economies ac...

Policy Corner Brief: FEBRUA...

Sportsmen’s conservation policy issues from publ...

Policy Corner Brief: JANUAR...

Sportsmen’s conservation policy issues from publ...

ADVERTISEMENT