By John Culclasure, Central Appalachian States Manager
West Virginia’s 2018 regular session concluded with many pro-sportsmen’s bills signed into law.
On March 22, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member Governor Jim Justice signed HB 2715 into law expanding the conditions that qualify for a special hunting permit for disabled persons. West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Delegate Jason Harshbarger sponsored the legislation.
On March 25, Governor Justice signed wanton waste legislation into law. Sponsored by Delegate Harshbarger, HB 2540 makes it unlawful to let any edible portion, as defined, of any big game animal or game fish go to waste needlessly. It is unlawful to take any big game and remove only the head, hide, antlers, tusks, paws, claws, gallbladder, teeth, beards, or spurs and leave the carcass to waste. On top of forfeiture and wildlife replacement cost provisions, violators are subject to monetary penalties or jail time and hunting and fishing license suspension.
On March 26, Governor Justice signed HB 2709 into law, which will exempt from public record requests the contact information of license holders that is compiled and maintained by the Division of Natural Resources.
The bipartisan and bicameral West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, in conjunction with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, led the effort to advance these bills to expand opportunities for hunters, disincentivize poaching, and protect license buyers.
West Virginia’s sportsmen and women support more than 12,500 jobs, contribute more than $1.1 billion to the state’s economy, and in 2018 generated more than $26 million for conservation through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and sporting-related equipment through the “user-pays, public-benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding.
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?