Why it Matters: Victories not only come in the form of passing legislation that supports our time-honored traditions, but also through the defeat of legislation that aims to negatively impact the activities that we all hold dear. Since the legislative sessions in the Great Plains have been adjourned, now is a great time to look back at some of the victories from this past session.
- Across the Great Plains region, each state faced their own challenges during the legislative session. Despite this, there are still conservation victories to be celebrated.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) was active in the Great Plains supporting legislation that benefits sportsmen and women and our time-honored traditions, while also defending against legislation that would negatively impact those traditions.
- Because some states do provide the opportunity to carry legislation forward to the next session, bills that neither passed nor were defeated, and can therefore be considered next year, are not discussed below.
With all the state legislatures in the Great Plains region adjourned for 2023, now is a great time to look back at some of the victories secured within the region:
In Nebraska, the price of several nonresident hunting and fishing licenses that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) offers received a much-needed increase. Nebraska Legislative Bill 565, introduced by Nebraska Legislative Sportsmen’s Forum Chair Senator Bostelman, increases the cost of nonresident licenses, providing a critical boost in conservation funding through the American System of Conservation Funding. As the costs associated with natural resource management continue to increase yearly, this increase in the price of licenses allows sportsmen and women to continue their proud history of serving as our nation’s primary funder of state-level conservation efforts – helping NGPC in their successful management of the Cornhusker State’s public trust resources.
Staying in Nebraska, CSF worked with partners to protect the NGPC from unnecessary financial burden in the form of additional payments in lieu of taxes (PILTs). Nebraska Legislative Bill 398 would have required NGPC to make PILTs for all property ever acquired by the Commission at a rate equivalent to the highest and best use of each property, rather than making payments solely on properties acquired after Nebraska’s PILT system was established. This increase in expenses would have pulled resources away from their important conservation work and ultimately diverted sportsmen-generated dollars away from fish and wildlife conservation. Fortunately, LB 398 was defeated.
In North Dakota, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s (NDGF) management authority was threatened by the introduction of House Bill 1151. This bill aimed to undermine the wildlife management authority of NDGF by restricting their ability to adopt any policy that prohibits the baiting of big game animals for hunting. In opposition to the bill, CSF maintained that that NDGF is the entity best equipped to make science-based wildlife management decisions. Thanks, in part, to oppositional efforts from CSF and several in-state partners HB 1151 failed – ensuring that wildlife management decisions will continue to be made by the entity best equipped to do so.
Also in the Peace Garden State, House Bill 1538, introduced by North Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Porter, was signed into law, eliminating financial barriers for hosting large-scale fishing tournaments youth fishing competitions. Specifically, HB 1538 removed overly burdensome tournament fees, which proved to be cost-prohibitive for many tournaments, and established the Fishing Conservation Fund, which is appropriated annually to NDGF for the purpose of fishery conservation. This change was designed to reignite tournament fishing in North Dakota while maintaining support for fisheries conservation.
While this is just a snapshot of the work the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has done in the Great Plains, CSF will continue to advocate and support pro-sportsmen and women legislation to protect our time-honored traditions in the Great Plains, and across the country.