Hunting access, state legislation and regulation changes

ACCESS ACT

Earlier this year, Congressman Mike Thompson, D-Calif., introduced the Authorizing Critical Conservation and Enabling Sportsmen and Sportswomen (ACCESS) Act. This comprehensive piece of legislation contains several provisions and reauthorizations that the NWTF has supported in the past, along with new provisions that are crucial for the hunting and outdoor communities.

The ACCESS Act includes reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, both of which serve to protect and enhance wildlife habitat through voluntary public-private partnerships. The ACCESS Act also contains multiple provisions to address Chronic Wasting Disease that will provide funding for research and management of CWD and will require partnerships between states and the land management agencies to implement these provisions.

The NWTF looks forward to working with Congress as it moves forward on this important legislation.

STATE LEGISLATION

Indiana legislators introduced Senate Bill 610 to establish a stakeholder committee to guide forest management decisions, but the bill did not include a certified forester position. There were also two amendments introduced to existing legislation; one that would have created a similar commission to SB 610, and one that set aside 10 percent of each Indiana state forest from timber harvesting. SB 610 and the amendments were repetitive and unnecessary, as the Indiana Division of Forestry currently uses sound science to guide its multi-use forest management program, and would undermine the division’s abilities to manage and maintain the health and diversity of the state’s forests. State chapter members engaged with their senators to oppose this legislation, and the legislation was defeated in committee.

Oklahoma legislators introduced House Bill 2324 to allow nonresident landowners to obtain combination hunting/fishing licenses for the same price as resident combination licenses. This is much less than the almost $200 that nonresidents currently pay for hunting and fishing licenses, and would result in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation losing considerable revenue annually from license fees and Pittman-Robertson funding that would be spent on wildlife conservation and management throughout the state. State chapter members responded to an NWTF Action Alert by contacting their senators in opposition to this legislation, and killed the bill in committee shortly after.

We would like to thank our members for making their voices heard and urging their state leaders to oppose these pieces of legislation. These efforts prove that your voice can make a difference.

SOUTH CAROLINA TURKEY SEASON

The South Carolina legislature has spent recent months creating legislation to improve the turkey hunting season structure for the sustainability of the state’s wild turkey population, and the state chapter has been involved throughout this process. Chapter leaders testified four times to both House and Senate committees urging legislators to base their decisions on the recommendations and sound science provided by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ four-year study on the state’s declining turkey population. Members sent almost 5,000 emails to the House and Senate Committee members, along with personally engaging with their own legislators, to push for legislation that will ensure the future of the state’s turkey resource and turkey hunting.

The persistence of the state chapter led to a step in the right direction for the viability of the state’s turkey population. The new season structure is March 22 to April 30 in the Low Country and April 1 to May 10 in the Upstate. Although these dates do not align with the DNR’s recommendations, they include other beneficial provisions for the state’s turkey resource, such as fees for turkey tags, allowing only one turkey to be harvested per day, and only one turkey harvested in the first 10 days of the game zone’s season.

These examples show the power of our membership when we engage on an issue. When elected officials hear from people that are passionate about an issue and have first-hand knowledge of the resource, they listen.  Thanks to our members that made their voice heard.  Your voice does make a difference; send an email, make a phone call or pay them a visit.

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