RIGHT TO HUNT AND FISH CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT HEADED TO THE BALLOT IN FL IN 2024
ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE
Why It Matters: Right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife constitutional amendments protect the outdoor traditions of thousands of sportsmen and women from efforts to limit or outright ban hunting and fishing practices. Anti-sportsmen organizations continually lead efforts to persuade the public to believe that hunting, fishing, and harvesting wildlife are a privilege, subject to emotionally driven public sentiments to alter policies and regulations, rather than science-based facts. Florida is taking a proactive measure to ensure that their time-honored sporting traditions are protected for generations to come.
- House Joint Resolution 1157, introduced by Representative Lauren Melo and cosponsored by Florida Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Jason Shoaf, puts the right to hunt and fish, including the use of traditional methods, constitutional amendment on the ballot for Florida voters in 2024.
- HJR 1157 cruised through both the Agriculture, Conservation, and Resiliency Subcommittee and the Infrastructure Strategies Committee. CSF Support Letter – HJR 1157 (2) (1) of HJR 1157 to both the Subcommittee and the Committee.
- During a press conference on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Tallahassee on April 18, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Southeastern States Senior Coordinator, Mark Lance, spoke in support of HJR 1157 and its companion bill, SJR 1234, along with other in-state and national conservation partners.
- On April 25, HJR 1157 passed the Florida House of Representatives on a unanimous, bipartisan vote of 116-0. It then passed the Senate 39-1 on April 28, officially placing the right to hunt and fish constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2024.
While adding the right to hunt and fish to the Florida State Constitution is a rallying call for hunters and anglers to defend their time honored traditions, it is also important to note the over $70 million generated by sportsmen and women for conservation funding through the American System of Conservation Funding in 2021 alone. Passage of the right to hunt and fish constitutional amendment would ensure the continuation of conservation funding that benefits not only game species and the opportunities they provide for sportsmen and women, but also non-game species and the public at large.
Currently, 23 states, including every Southern State, have adopted right to hunt and fish constitutional amendments.
CSF applauds the leadership of Representative Melo and Senator Jason Brodeur, who sponsored SJR 1234, as well as the support of the Florida Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and numerous conservation partners in our concerted effort to give Floridians the opportunity to amend their State Constitution to further protect their cherished sporting traditions.
States Involved: FL
HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARS TWO CSF PRIORITIES
ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ
Why It Matters: The hearing on the Duck Stamp Modernization Act and the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act marks the first significant step in the legislative process for these bills. This hearing demonstrates the Subcommittee’s commitment to sportsmen and women through the prioritization of important conservation and access priorities.
- Last week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, Fisheries held a legislative hearing on several bills, including two priorities for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).
- The first bill, known as the Duck Stamp Modernization Act (H.R. 2872), is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Vice Chair Rep. Garret Graves and CSC Member Rep. Mike Thompson seeks to modernize the Federal Duck Stamp program.
- The second CSF priority considered by Committee, the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act (H.R. 615), which is led by CSC Member Rep. Rob Wittman seeks to protect the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands against unsubstantiated attacks on the use of these products.
Last Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries Subcommittee held a legislative hearing on two top CSF priorities. Prior to the hearing, CSF submitted a statement for the record in strong support of both the Duck Stamp Modernization Act and the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act.
The Duck Stamp Modernization Act is a bipartisan bill that will modernize the federal duck stamp process by allowing hunters to have an electronic Federal Duck Stamp on their smart phone for the entirety of the hunting season. Under current law, when a hunter purchases an electronic federal duck stamp (e-stamp), the e-stamp is only valid for a period of 45 days to allow for the actual stamp to be mailed. Once the actual stamp is received by the e-stamp purchaser, the actual stamp must be signed across the face of the stamp by the respective hunter and be in the hunter’s possession while afield. To ensure the continuance and integrity of the Federal Duck Stamp art contest, a longstanding tradition for waterfowlers and non-consumptive bird enthusiasts alike, H.R. 2872 will ensure that purchasers of e-stamps still receive the actual stamp in the mail. Specifically, the legislation will provide that actual stamps will be mailed to purchasers from March 10 to June 30.
Signed into law in 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp has generated over $1.1 billion for wetlands conservation and helped conserve over 6 million acres of wetlands within the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 1934, there were roughly 635,000 stamps sold. Today, that number has grown to over 1.5 million stamp purchases, which generates more than $37.5 million annually for wetlands conservation.
The Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act would prohibit the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior from banning the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on select federal lands and waters unless certain science-based triggers are met. Specifically, the federal lands of focus include lands and waters managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service.
H.R. 615 would require that any claims indicating a decline in fish and wildlife populations at a specific unit of land or water where lead ammunition and tackle is being restricted must be substantiated through field data from that unit. Secondly, any restrictions on the use of lead ammo and tackle must be consistent with the regulations of the impacted state fish and wildlife agency. Lastly, any restriction on the use of lead ammunition and tackle within the federal lands of focus must have the support of the respective state fish and wildlife agency.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks the Subcommittee for a holding on these two bills and thanks the bill sponsors for leading these important pieces of legislation. CSF looks forward to working with the bill sponsors to advance these priorities through the legislative process.
RECOVERING AMERICA’S WILDLIFE ACT GARNERS BIPARTISAN COSPONSORS IN SENATE
ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ
Why It Matters: At a time when Congress continues to be divided on many important issues, the priorities of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) continue to be an area of strong bipartisan agreement. One of these priorities includes the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which last week added nearly a dozen bipartisan cosponsors, a sign of the strong support for this CSF priority.
- Last week, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (S. 1149), , which is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Senators Heinrich and Tillis, added 10 bipartisan cosponsors, four Democrats, five Republicans, and one Independent, an important step in the legislative process for this legislation.
- Since the concept of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was first developed in 2015, CSF has been one of the main drivers of this critical piece of legislation.
Last Tuesday, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) added 10 bipartisan cosponsors, a sign of the strong bipartisan support for this legislation. CSF applauds the Senators who joined sponsoring this legislation last week to show their support for sportsmen and women as well as fish and wildlife conservation.
Through their State Wildlife Action Plans, which serve as unique roadmaps to each state’s conservation needs, state fish and wildlife agencies have identified nearly 12,000 species identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). These 12,000 Species of Greatest Conservation Need include many iconic species ranging from bobwhite quail, big horn sheep, monarch butterflies, to brook trout and artic grayling. To address the conservation challenge facing these 12,000 species, RAWA seeks to provide approximately $1.4 billion annually to state, territorial, and tribal fish and wildlife agencies to proactively conserve SGCN before more costly and regulatory measures, such as listing under the Endangered Species Act, may be necessary. Combined with a 25% non-federal match, RAWA would empower states to fully implement their State Wildlife Actions.
“Investing in proactive conservation work well before species ever become imperiled or endangered is something that Republicans and Democrats can agree on,” said Senators Heinrich and Tillis. “We are proud to welcome this support from our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and we are determined to work in partnership to get RAWA across the finish line.”
CSF looks forward to working with the bill sponsors and the new cosponsors to build more support for this legislation to further advance RAWA through the legislative process.
SOUTH CAROLINA LIFTS PUBLIC LANDS SUNDAY HUNTING PROHIBITION!
ARTICLE CONTACT: ISABELLA MUCCI
Why It Matters: Sunday hunting prohibitions are rooted in antiquated Blue Laws that are not based on scientific wildlife management principles. Sunday hunting restrictions hinder hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts (R3) and limit hunter access to public land while allowing access for other user groups on Sundays. By opening Sunday hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) starting in the fall of 2023, South Carolina’s hunters will now have seven-day access to public lands for the first time in the state’s history. Sunday hunting has been legal on private lands statewide since 2004.
- On May 26, 2023, new WMA regulations will take effect that allow Sunday hunting on eight WMAs and two National Forests from October 15 to January 31.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with the South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) and conservation partners since 2020 to advocate for opening Sunday hunting on WMAs.
- Prior to this regulation change, South Carolina was the only Southern state with an outright ban on Sunday hunting on public lands.
In 2021, The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and Clemson University conducted a series of public meetings and an online poll to gauge public opinion about Sunday hunting on WMAs. The results showed overwhelming support for opening Sunday hunting on public lands, with “75% of participants in favor of hunting on Sunday,” and online poll responses showing “approximately 2:1 in favor of Sunday hunting on SCDNR WMAs.”
In 2022 and 2023, Caucus Co-Chair Representative Bobby Cox introduced legislation to repeal the Sunday hunting prohibition which put the issue front and center for the South Carolina sportsmen’s community. In March 2023, CSF submitted comments to House and Senate Committees supporting the SCDNR proposed regulations to allow Sunday hunting for a portion of the hunting season on eight WMAs and the two National Forests. While CSF supports Sunday hunting being fully concurrent with all hunting seasons in the state, these new regulations are a significant step forward for South Carolina’s hunters by providing seven-day access on about 70% of the WMA acreage for three and a half months of the year.
WMAs are purchased and/or managed with dollars generated by sportsmen and women through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. The Palmetto State’s sportsmen and women generated more than $31 million for state-based conservation efforts in 2021 alone. Allowing Sunday hunting access on the very lands that South Carolina’s sportsmen and women pay to purchase, manage, and conserve is a great victory for South Carolina’s outdoor sporting community and is an important step toward recruiting the next generation of hunters.
CSF sincerely thanks National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Bobby Cox, numerous other Caucus Members, conservation partners, and the SCDNR for working to find a solution that allows South Carolina’s hunters access to public lands seven days a week and strengthens the Palmetto state’s outdoor sporting heritage for generations to come.
States Involved: SC
CSF AND FELLOW CONSERVATION/SPORTSMEN’S GROUPS GATHER FOR MONUMENTAL BILL SIGNING IN MARYLAND
ARTICLE CONTACT: JOSEPH MULLIN
Why It Matters: The signing of Senate Bill 327/House Bill 983 (Chapter No. 543) into law marks a major milestone for the Old Line State. For three decades, there have not been any increases to the hunting and trapping license fees, but through the signing of this legislation into law, sportsmen and women will continue their tenured history of bolstering conservation funding for their respective states. Relatedly, providing accommodations to an important constituency in the outdoor community – college students – is essential, and this law will allow non-resident students to enjoy all of Maryland’s hunting pursuits at resident rates. Finally, the creation of a sika deer hunting stamp will allow sportsmen and women to add to their legacy of supporting in-state conservation efforts even further.
- On May 8, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) joined numerous in-state and national partners, along with leaders of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, to take part in a signing ceremony for Senate Bill 327/House Bill 983 (Chapter No. 543).
- This law will increase fees for certain hunting and trapping licenses, establish a stamp for hunting sika deer, and authorize non-resident students attending a college or university in the state to purchase hunting licenses at resident rates.
- Throughout regular sessions, CSF worked alongside partners in support of these policy initiatives and congratulates all parties who made this momentous bill signing possible.
On May 8, Maryland Governor Wes Moore held a signing ceremony for Senate Bill 327/House Bill 983 (Chapter No. 543), bringing together CSF, in-state and national conservation and sportsmen’s organizations, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Co-Chairs of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.
Through its enactment, this law will, among several policy accomplishments: increase fees for certain hunting and trapping licenses (something that has not been occurred in over 34 years); allow non-resident college students to purchase hunting licenses at resident rates (a provision brought forth by Caucus Co-Chair and NASC Executive Council Member Senator Jack Bailey); and, establish a sika deer hunting stamp. Earlier this year, CSF testified before the House Environment and Transportation Committee in support of these policy initiatives.
Maryland’s sportsmen and women have a proud legacy of supporting the state’s conservation work through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). A primary ingredient for this System is the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Unfortunately, the price of hunting licenses in Maryland has failed to keep up with inflation, while the costs of doing business and delivering on-the-ground conservation benefits have increased. The enactment of this bill ensures that the financial footing for the DNR is sustained for years to come.
Additionally, the offering of resident hunting license fee rates to non-resident college students provides strong recognition of the fact that Maryland’s college students are tomorrow’s wildlife managers, political and business leaders, and members of conservation organizations. Despite spending 9 months out of the year(or more) in the state, non-resident college students are often priced out of formative outdoor experiences due to the high costs of hunting licenses, but this law will rectify that inequity.
Finally, the funds collected through the creation of a sika deer hunting stamp will further contribute to the ASCF, supporting the DNR’s on-the-ground conservation efforts and exemplifying the ways in which upland hunting contributes funding towards our state’s fish, wildlife, and natural habitats.
CSF applauds Governor Moore for signing this into law and thanks everyone who made this bill signing ceremony possible.
States Involved: MD
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