By John Culclasure Central Appalachian States Manager
On March 20, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member Jim Justice signed Senate Bill 346 into law which will allow nonresident college students to purchase West Virginia lifetime hunting and fishing licenses. Sponsored by West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Mark Maynard, the legislation is intended to support hunter and angler recruitment and retention. Caucus member Delegate Bill Hamilton sponsored companion legislation (HB 4235) in the House.
SB 346 removes the prohibition against full-time nonresident college students from purchasing West Virginia lifetime hunting, trapping, trout fishing, and fishing licenses. Twenty two states, including West Virginia, offer some type of nonresident college student hunting or angling licenses, which are designed to encourage students to take up or continue hunting and fishing while in college and often strapped for cash.
West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Mark Maynard said, “This legislation is not only important for recruiting and retaining the next generation of sportsmen and women, it will bolster West Virginia’s economy as more hunters and anglers return to the state to experience our outstanding hunting and fishing opportunities.”
SB 346 received broad bipartisan support, passing both chambers unanimously on its way to the Governor’s desk.
In addition to supporting the recruitment and retention of hunters and anglers, the legislation will provide important conservation funding revenue for the state fish and wildlife agency and encourage nonresidents to return to the Mountain State to pursue their outdoor passions after leaving college.
West Virginia’s economy benefits greatly from the contributions of sportsmen and women with almost half a million resident and nonresident hunters and anglers supporting 12,500 jobs and generating $1.1 billion in economic activity.
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?