November 13, 2014

U.S. Votes in Favor of Sportsmen’s Interests

On November 4, a number of state-specific ballot questions that would impact conservation and the sportsmen’s community were considered by voters across the United States. In each instance, members of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) played a pivotal role in protecting and advancing our sportsmen’s traditions. NASC has grown to include 44 state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses, and over 2,000 state legislators. Through their leadership hunters, anglers, recreational shooters and trappers are well-represented across the country.

Alabama Right to Hunt and Fish

Alabama passed Ballot Question 5, strengthening a constitutional amendment granting its citizens the “right to hunt and fish” and harvest wildlife in the state. As part of NASC, the Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus has worked tirelessly to protect their hunting and angling heritage. Earlier this year, Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Vice-Chair Representative Mark Tuggle introduced legislation proposing a statewide constitutional amendment specifying Alabamians would have the “right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject to reasonable regulations that promote conservation and management of fish and wildlife and preserve the future of hunting and fishing.” A successful year for the Caucus, Alabama voters also approved Ballot Question 3, granting citizens to fundamental right to bear arms in the state.   

Mississippi Right to Hunt and Fish

Mississippi shared similar success with this year’s ballot measures. Ballot Question 1, approved by the state’s voters, grants citizens the constitutional right to hunt and fish and harvest wildlife. Last month, in preparation for the ballot measure, the Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus hosted a press conference at the State Capitol, which press and community supporters joined 20 members of the Caucus including Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Vice-Chair Gov. Phil Bryant. In 2012, the Caucus shepherded a legislatively referred constitutional amendment which would protect Mississippians right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife including by the use of traditional methods, subject only to such regulations and restrictions that promote wildlife conservation and management as the Legislature may prescribe by general law. Approving this ballot measure was a clear success for the Caucus and Mississippi hunters and anglers.  

Future of Traditional Maine Bear Hunting Protected

Maine Ballot Question 1 would have banned traditional Maine bear hunting, prohibiting hunting with dogs, and using bait or traps. Fortunately, the sportsmen’s community rallied and successfully educated voters on the importance of these traditional methods in Maine’s bear management program. As a result, Maine voters rejected the ballot measure last week, which in turn retained the current wildlife management system, and minimized the threat of depredation to human safety, livestock, agriculture, and property.

Prior to the vote, 35 sportsmen’s and other conservation organizations from the American Wildlife Conservation Partners sent a letter to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock expressing their support for his position and joining him in  opposing the anti-bear hunt referendum. All four of the Maine Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs, Sen. Tom Saviello, Sen. Troy Jackson, Rep. Michael Shaw, and Rep. Steve Wood signed on to the coalition to Save Maine’s Bear Hunt and opposed the anti-bear hunt referendum.

Michigan Protects Future Wildlife Management

The importance of a dedicated state legislative sportsmen’s caucus became strikingly clear during this year’s ballot process in Michigan when the majority of voters rejected Michigan Proposal 1 and 2.  By rejecting these measures, they would have permanently overturned laws allowing wolf hunting, and allowing the Natural Resource Commission to designate game species.

However, thanks to the collective efforts of Michigan’s sportsmen’s community and of the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (SFWCA) was passed on August 27. This citizen-initiated law, filed as Public Act 281 of 2014, amends Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994 and nullifies the effects of the recent ballot proposals. Ultimately, the efforts of out of state anti-hunting groups were not effective at impacting the ability of Michigan’s natural resource professionals to manage the state’s public trust resources based on scientific principles. 

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?

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