Contact: Clay Chester, Southeastern States Coordinator
With the widespread impacts of COVID-19, the 2020 regular session of the Mississippi Legislature is currently in recess. In March, the Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) hosted the 12th Annual Sportsmen’s Caucus Fish Fry, which provided an opportunity for Caucus members to interact with conservation partners and discuss issues impacting the state’s hunters and anglers.
The Caucus, which is chaired by Representatives Scott Bounds and Karl Gibbs as well as Senators Angela Hill and Philip Moran, works with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) and sportsmen’s groups to protect and advance the interests of the 782,000 sportsmen and women in the Magnolia State.
Many bills of interest to sportsmen and women have been introduced this session. Below are a few of the bills that the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will continue to track when the legislature reconvenes.
Chronic Wasting Disease
On March 5, legislation (House Bill 450) that would require deer harvested in an enclosure be tested for chronic wasting disease (CWD) cleared the House with strong bipartisan support. Caucus Member Representative Becky Currie sponsored the legislation. Since CWD was first detected in the state in February 2018, measures have been implemented to combat its spread including the development of the North and Issaquena CWD management zones. Within these CWD management zones, supplemental feeding and the transport of carcasses are banned. The legislation is currently awaiting assignment to a committee in the Senate.
Hunter Safety Course in School
On March 5, legislation (House Bill 1577) that would authorize students in grades 7-12 in public school districts to take a course in hunter safety as an elective passed the House. Sponsored by Caucus Member Speaker Philip Gunn, the bill language outlines the requirements for participation in the program, the educational guidelines for the curriculum, and the qualifications to be an instructor. The school-based hunter safety course, which could take place either during the day or after school, would meet the hunter education course requirement to purchase a hunting license. These types of recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) initiatives provide students with an opportunity to become more active in the outdoors and potentially create lifelong hunters. HB 1577 has been transmitted to the Senate and awaits a committee assignment.
Tribal Identification Cards
On March 10, legislation (House Bill 1314) passed the House that would allow a valid and current tribal identification card issued by a federally recognized Indian tribe to serve as proof of identity for many purposes, including the ability to purchase a hunting or fishing license. License sales provide vital conservation funding for the MDWFP through the American System of Conservation Funding. Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Representative Scott Bounds sponsored the legislation which is currently awaiting action in the Senate.
Managing Feral Swine
On March 10, legislation that would prohibit the transportation of live feral hogs within the state passed the Senate. Senate Bill 2727 would also remove the ability for the MDWFP to issue permits for the transportation of feral hogs, live swine or Russian boars. Feral swine cause significant damage to natural resources and pose a risk for infecting game and non-game wildlife as disease vectors. The bill awaits action in the House Committee on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
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?