With state legislative sessions beginning across much of the Midwest, members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundations’ (CSF) States Program Team are hard at work tracking legislation throughout the region. Working with the members of each state’s Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, regional staff will continue to monitor the status of relevant bills, communicate with the sportsmen and conservation communities, and assist legislators where needed.
Though it is still early in 2020, regional staff are already tracking several important bills throughout the Midwest. Below are some legislative priorities that CSF will be working on in 2020:
Missouri HB 1547 and SB 661:
These bills would protect landowners and managers against liability for damages caused by prescribed fires, or the smoke produce by a prescribed fire, unless the landowner is proven to be negligent. This also provides protections against liability for landowners who perform prescribed burns at the direction of a burn plan written by a certified prescribed burn manager.
Protections for landowners who seek to use prescribed fire as a land management tool are often necessary to overcome one of the most significant barriers that prevent the use of prescribed fire. Prescribed fire is one of the most effective management tools available to landowners. Fires are used to improve habitat conditions for many species of wildlife (including many game species), reduce fuel loads to help mitigate future wildfire risks, and improving forest health. In both bills, the authors acknowledge that prescribed burning is a tool that benefits public safety, the environment, and the economy.
Michigan HB 4567-4579:
This package of bills addresses commercial fishing regulations in Michigan’s Great Lakes. The current laws have not been updated since the 1960’s and are in need of modernization. This legislation would protect gamefish from commercial harvest, increase the fines for commercial fishing operations to help pay for the administrative oversight coasts, and require better net marking to protect both commercial equipment and to keep recreational anglers safer on the Great Lakes.
Late last year, CSF and our partners were successful in amending this legislation to remove crappie from the list of commercially eligible species and ensuring this popular game fish would not be targeted by commercial fishing operations. This package of bills was introduced in May of 2019 and has until December 31, 2020 to be passed. Currently these bills sit in the House Ways and Means Committee. This package of bills is important to CSF and the recreational anglers in Michigan and we will continue to monitor this legislation in 2020 and work to promote its passage in the legislature.
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?