Contact: Joe Mullin, New England States Senior Coordinator
On February 1, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) testified in opposition to the original draft of House Bill 118 (HB 118) – legislation that would alter the composition of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission (Commission).
HB 118 would have decreased the number of years in which a prospective Commissioner must hold a resident fishing, hunting, or trapping license, lowering it from five of the last ten years to two of the last five. CSF also submitted written testimony, outlining specific concerns with the proposed legislation.
As evidenced during Commission meetings and through stances taken on proposed legislation, the Commission continues to uphold its duties, including the “Conservation, protection, and management of wildlife populations and habitats, the collection of necessary scientific information, and the enforcement of fish and game laws for the purpose of sustaining healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and marine resources.” HB 118 also presents a significant concern that with a lower threshold, individuals opposed to consumptive-use practices may pursue opportunities to become commission members, bolstering their efforts against conservation by applying preservationist ideals.
Last year, CSF submitted a letter of opposition to, and testified against, similar legislation. House Bill 1571 (HB 1571) sought to appoint non-consumptive users to the Commission by prohibiting more than 6 of the 11 Commissioners from being resident license holders for fishing, hunting, or trapping in at least 5 of the 10 years preceding the appointment. CSF worked alongside numerous in-state and national conservation organizations leading up to and throughout the hearing, assisting in the formation of a unified front in opposition of HB 1571. In a Committee vote of 15-5, the bill was held “Inexpedient to Legislate.”
State fish and wildlife agency commissioners have an instrumental role in the conservation and management of a state’s wildlife and habitats. Hunters, anglers, and trappers are in the best position to weigh-in on matters relevant to our sporting traditions. Requiring the commissioners to have a longer tenure of time afield only works towards ensuring that the commission itself is a collective of more experienced individuals. As the primary funders of state-level conservation efforts in the United States, sportsmen and women are a financial keystone for state fish and wildlife agencies. Therefore, their representation on commissions must not be substituted for the possibility of anti-sportsmen to take their seats.
CSF commends the Committee’s decision to further evaluate this issue and will remain engaged throughout the process to ensure that the voice of sportsmen and women is not minimized in regulatory decisions.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?