116th Congress most Historic in this Age for Sportsmen and Women as America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (S. 3051) Becomes Law
On October 30, the 116th Congress was solidified as one of the most productive for conservation and sportsmen and women in a lifetime with the enactment of the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act (S. 3051) which is now federal law.
The ACE Act, which was led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Senators John Barrasso and Tom Carper and cosponsored by CSC Leaders Senators Martin Heinrich and John Boozman, passed both chambers of Congress on voice votes, a sign of the strong bipartisan support for this legislation. The ACE Act contains nearly a dozen provisions including a number of long-standing priorities for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) in particular, such as reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, protection of lead fishing tackle for a period of 5 years, Congressional authorization of the National Fish Habitat Partnership, the establishment of a task force within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to combat Chronic Wasting Disease, and reauthorization of the Chesapeake Bay Program, among others.
The ACE Act adds to the momentum generated earlier this Congress with the passage and enactment of the Dingell Act, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, and most recently the historic Great American Outdoors Act. Additionally, the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 3742), a top priority for sportsmen and women passed the U.S. House in July.
The culmination of these legislative victories during a time in which polarized politics appear to dominate makes this Congress remarkably unique in its ability to bring both sides of the aisle together to support conservation investments that recognize the importance of America’s sportsmen and women.
The near-universal support for the conservation victories throughout the 116th Congress is in large part due to the efforts of the bipartisan CSC as well as strong support from CSF.
“The enactment of these monumental victories is a direct result of the efforts and leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus leaders and members in the 116th Congress, who have worked tirelessly to advance generational pieces of legislation to benefit sportsmen and women across the nation,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “Collectively, the policies enacted during this Congress will increase access to public lands that hunters and anglers use most and enhance our nation’s natural resources for generations to come.”
CSF has been actively engaged in the enactment of each one of these pro-sporting legislative victories throughout the 116th Congress by working with members of the CSC and partners in the community, and will remain engaged to ensure these policies are implemented effectively and in a timely manner.
Sportsmen’s Groups Support Sunday Hunting on Public Lands in North Carolina
On October 9, a coalition of national and in-state sportsmen’s conservation groups submitted a letter to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) expressing support for opening Sunday hunting on Game Lands.
The Outdoor Heritage Enhanced Act of 2017 transferred regulatory authority for Sunday hunting on public lands from the legislature to the WRC. The legislation was a priority for the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and member organizations of the Sunday Hunting Coalition. Since that time, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and partners have encouraged the WRC to move forward with rulemaking to allow Sunday hunting on Game Lands. Currently, no Game Lands are open for Sunday hunting.
This year, the WRC gathered public input through online polling, in-person and online meetings, and virtual stakeholder group meetings and ultimately recommended 57 Game Lands for Sunday hunting allowance. WRC Commissioners will decide later this month whether to take the proposal to allow Sunday hunting on the 57 Game Lands to public comment in December.
The letter also thanked the WRC for listening to public input and making recommendations consistent with the feedback received from hunters and nontraditional users and additionally urged the Commission to vote in favor of moving forward with rulemaking for the 57 Game Lands proposed for Sunday hunting.
The letter stated, “Permitting Sunday hunting on Game Lands will afford hunters that do not have access to private property a place to hunt and provide access parity with other user-groups as hunters are currently the only constituency barred from using Game Lands on Sundays. Opening Sunday hunting on Game Lands will also benefit North Carolina’s economy, support conservation funding for the Wildlife Resources Commission, and further hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation efforts.”
CSF appreciates the efforts of the WRC staff and Commissioners to implement this legislation and looks forward to a continued partnership. Opening Sunday hunting on the 1.64 million acres that comprise the recommended 57 Game Lands would be a tremendous access improvement victory for the sportsmen and women of North Carolina.
Midwestern Hunters are encouraged to Introduce New Sportsmen and Women to the Outdoors
As firearm deer season approaches throughout much of the Midwest, experienced hunters are encouraged to use this time as an opportunity to introduce new hunters to the field. Pursuing deer with firearms is often the most popular season in many states due to the season’s overlap with the white-tailed deer breeding season, which provides the best opportunity for new and beginning hunters to experience an enjoyable and successful day in the field.
Recently, the Missouri Department of Conservation released its harvest report for the early youth firearms season that ran from October 31 through November 1. Highlighted by the more than 15,000 deer that Missouri’s youth hunters harvested over that weekend, youth hunting seasons represent excellent opportunities to introduce the next generation of sportsmen and women to the activities that we hold dear. However, many regular firearm seasons run for several weeks, and the days dedicated to youth-only hunting shouldn’t be the only option to introduce young hunters.
Additionally, hunters who discover their passion for the outdoors later in life – often referred to as adult-onset hunters – represent one of the largest growing sectors of the hunting population. Given the growing interest in the locavore movement, the availability of apprentice hunting opportunities in many states, and the need for safe recreational opportunities during the ongoing pandemic, 2020 may be the ideal year for hunters to share their time and pass on their passions to ensure the longevity of our hunting heritage and support the American System of Conservation Funding.
Though this has been a challenging year, we encourage all sportsmen and women to head outdoors this hunting season and take advantage of opportunities to practice #ResponsibleRecreation while introducing a new hunter in your area.
For more information on apprentice hunting opportunities and ways to get involved as a mentor, visit your state’s fish and wildlife management agency’s website.
FWC Commission Developing Rules for Establishing Restricted Hunting Areas
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commission (Commission) is developing draft rule changes that provide objective criteria for establishing Restricted Hunting Areas (RHAs). The FWC’s stated intent is to reduce confusion for hunters that utilize RHAs and communities that apply for a RHA. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is tracking the rule development process to ensure that hunter access is not unduly restricted.
The proposed rule changes include:
- The jurisdiction applying to establish an RHA must:
- Document that the proposed RHA has an average dwelling density of not less than one (1) dwelling per acre;
- Pass a resolution that clearly states that the jurisdiction is seeking to establish an RHA. The resolution must contain a statement that all residents in the proposed RHA have been contacted and invited to at least one public meeting to discuss the resolution before the resolution was passed;
- Provide detailed maps and legal descriptions of the proposed RHA;
- Provide a list of the local law enforcement agencies that have consented to enforcing the RHA rules; and
- Pass an ordinance once a permit has been issued.
- Hunting within 300 feet of a dwelling will be prohibited except for dwelling owners or those that have written permission from the dwelling owner;
- Restricted hunting areas will not include any FWC or federally owned or managed lands, and the 300-foot buffer will not extend onto these areas;
- Local law enforcement will be solely responsible for enforcing restricted hunting areas; and
- Signs must be posted along the entire border of the RHA.
The proposed rule changes would not prohibit hunting in undeveloped areas within an RHA or areas more than 300 feet from a dwelling.
The FWC hosted webinars for the public to learn about the proposed rule changes. The public comment period is open, and comments can be submitted online.
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