On January 18, the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus held the first of its weekly policy meetings in Richmond, Virginia. Caucus Chairs Senator Emmett Hanger and Delegate James E. Edmunds, II welcomed Caucus members, representatives from state agencies, and sportsmen’s conservation groups and led a discussion on plans for the 2018 legislative session which runs from January 10 to March 10.
Dr. Gray Anderson, Deputy Director of Terrestrial Wildlife for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries gave a presentation on black bear management in Virginia, which included updates on community engagement, bear hunting licenses sales, and bear harvest data. Future Caucus meetings will cover a variety of topics ranging from National Forest habitat management issues to coastal fisheries management.
Formed in 2004, the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators dedicated to protecting and advancing hunting, fishing, trapping and recreational shooting in Virginia. Senator Hanger has served as Caucus Chair since the Caucus was formed in 2004, and Delegate Edmunds became Caucus Chair after the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session. John Culclasure, Central Appalachian States Coordinator for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, attends Caucus meetings regularly and works with the Caucus in a support capacity.
On assuming a leadership role in the Caucus, Delegate Edmunds said, “I am honored to serve as Chair of the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. As a lifelong sportsman and land manager, I am dedicated to protecting our outdoor traditions and look forward to working with my colleagues to support policies that are advantageous to sportsmen and women in the Commonwealth.”
Numerous bills of interest to sportsmen and women have been introduced in Virginia this session. Caucus Chair Senator Hanger sponsored a bill (SB 81) related to landowner liability, and Caucus Chair Delegate Edmunds sponsored a bill (HB 1328) that would exempt disabled hunters from local ordinances that require hunters to hunt from tree stands or elevated platforms. Other notable legislation this year includes two bills (HB 239 and SB 375) that would expand Sunday hunting opportunities and a bill that would increase penalties for poachers (HB 1075). More information about these bills and others can be accessed on the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s new interactive legislative and regulatory tracking service.
Virginia’s 1.07 million hunters and anglers spend over $2 billion dollars annually on their pursuits which supports over 39,000 jobs in the state and generates more than $242 million in state and local taxes.
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?