By: Ellary TuckerWilliams- Inter-Mountain Western States Coordinator
On March 11, the Honorable Brad Little, Governor of Idaho, signed House Bill 396 (H396) into law, a substantial win for the sporting community of Idaho.
H396, titled Shooting Ranges Fund, aims to expand recreational shooting opportunities and access for Idaho’s sportsmen and women by increasing the ability of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to develop, operate, and maintain the lands, waters or conservation easements for public shooting ranges and enter into agreements with outside entities in locating new or relocating existing shooting ranges. Such ability would not only provide increased access to places where the public may engage in target shooting, training, and competition, but also benefit conservation throughout the state by increasing the monetary contributions from the shooting sports to the American System of Conservation Funding. In short, this legislation complements recent sportsmen’s policy victories at the federal level and H396 enhances efforts to take advantage of the new resources and flexibility provided by the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act.
Recently signed into law by President Trump, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Act provides state fish and wildlife agencies with added flexibility to allocate funds for range construction or improvement over time with the goal of giving them the resources needed to provide the public with more opportunities to embrace hunting and the shooting sports. Such federal designation is especially important as shooting ranges have come under increased scrutiny as population growth and suburban sprawl expand closer to preexisting ranges, often causing conflict with uneducated members of the public. Such conflicts often result in arbitrary sanctions and lawsuits, ultimately leading to range closures and reduced access for members of the hunting and shooting sports community.
Earlier this week, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter of support to Governor Little, respectfully requesting that he sign H396 into law which will ultimately lead to increased opportunities for Idaho’s sportsmen and women to embrace hunting and shooting sports throughout the state.
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?