Contact: Kent Keene, Senior Coordinator, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why it matters: For centuries, hunters served as providers for their communities. Today, reliance on hunters and gatherers to supply food outside of their own homes has diminished. However, hunters in many states can play a role in providing for those in need by donating game meat to their local food banks. In Texas, current law only permits native game meat to be donated, though the Texas Department of State Health Services has permitted the donation of exotic meat during the COVID-19 disaster declaration. House Bill 2213 would make this change permanent, allowing hunters to donate meat from legally harvested exotic animals that are hunted in the state. In addition to their support for conservation through the American System of Conservation Funding, game meat donation programs such as Texas’ Hunters for the Hungry and Sportsmen Against Hunger allow sportsmen and women to support their communities while engaging in outdoor pursuits.
Texas is currently home to several exotic species that have naturalized and developed self-sustaining populations in the state (including on public lands). As is the case for game species, hunters may legally pursue many of these species, though legally harvested meat from exotic species is not eligible for donation to in-state game meat donation programs outside of the existing COVID-19 disaster declaration. On March 24, the Texas House of Representative’s Public Health Committee held a hearing for House Bill 2213 (HB 2213) which would permanently expand opportunities for hunters to donate legally harvest exotic meat to local food banks.
Game meat donations open the door for sportsmen and women to provide aid for those less fortunate by donating excess meat from their harvests to food banks. While hunters no longer play the critical role they once did as providers for their entire community, many Americans still rely on hunting to supply healthy protein for themselves and their families. Game meat donation programs, such as Texas’ Hunters for the Hungry and Sportsmen Against Hunger, allow hunters to share that bounty with those in need. To support these programs, hunters, outside donors, and non-profit organizations cover the cost of processing game meat that is then shared with food banks for distribution. While sportsmen and women are often recognized for their support of conservation efforts through the American System of Conservation Funding, game meat donation programs allow our nation’s original conservationists to give back directly to their communities.
HB 2213 has been a priority for many sportsmen’s organizations in Texas who recognize the benefit that these opportunities can provide for those in need in the Lone Star State, particularly considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In support of HB 2213, CSF submitted a letter to members of the Texas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus highlighting the importance of game meat donation programs. Following the public hearing in the House Public Health Committee, HB 2213 now awaits further action by members of the committee.
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?