With the bulk of the Midwest region’s legislative sessions having wrapped up for the year, the focus has shifted to implementation of a few laws that were passed during the 2019 session. Game commissions are also busy developing and implementing regulatory changes, including regulations designed to increase opportunities for hunters or combat diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Below are a few highlights from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s Midwestern Region.
Illinois: On July 26, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed HB 3462 into law. The bill gives school districts in the state the option of including hunting safety education in their curriculum. The bill was sponsored by Illinois Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Board Member Representative Monica Bristow and received bipartisan support. The legislation amends the school code and “provides that a school district may offer its students a course on hunting safety as part of its curriculum during the school day or as part of an after-school program.” It also says the “State Board of Education may prepare and make available to school boards resources on hunting safety that may be used as guidelines for the development of the course.” CSF supports opportunities to educate the next generation on the role of hunters as conservationists through their activities, as well as their financial contributions to conservation through the American System of Conservation Funding.
“Hunting and outdoor activities are a large part of the traditions that we pass down through generations, and schools should have the option to help educate on these traditions if they wish,” said Rep. Bristow. “Offering hunting education programs in our schools ensure that students learn how to keep themselves safe while hunting while also how to properly respect firearms. This bill was a bipartisan effort that helped bring legislators from both parties together to help students and schools in downstate Illinois communities who have been interested in this idea for some time.””
Missouri: On August 1, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) published a series of 25 proposed regulations and regulatory amendments regarding elk hunting in Missouri. These regulations include the creation of firearms and archery permits for elk, as well as seasons, and general elk hunting provisions. The proposed regulations also clarify elk permit eligibility, including: hunter education requirements (apprentice hunting licenses do not qualify), landowner qualifications, and language that specifies that elk may only be taken on an elk permit. Each proposed regulation is open for public comment through August 31. These regulatory proposals represent the next step in the creation of Missouri’s first elk hunting season in over 40 years.
Texas: On July 22, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted a rule amendment to expand the current boundaries of CWD Containment Zone (CZ) 3 in Medina County. This expansion comes in response to the December 31, 2018 detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in a free-ranging male white-tailed deer in CZ 3. Due to the proximity of the current CZ border, the commission consulted the Texas Animal Health Commission and decided to increase the size of the Containment Zone. Following a public comment period, the proposed expansion was both approved and enacted. In addition to special restrictions on the movement of susceptible species (i.e., white-tailed deer, mule deer, and elk) within a CZ, all hunters who harvest a susceptible species are required to take the harvested animal to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department check station within 48 hours of harvest for testing.
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?