Fishing for Problems: Granting Municipalities Regulatory Authority Over Frozen Public Waters

Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States

On February 10, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, Joseph Mullin, testified during a New Hampshire House Resources, Recreation, and Development Committee hearing in opposition to House Bill 534 (HB 534) – legislation that would grant regulatory authority over frozen public waters to municipalities, threatening angling access for sportsmen and women across New Hampshire.

If implemented, HB 534 poses a significant risk to the use and enjoyment of these frozen waters for the purpose of ice fishing. As Mullin stated in his testimony and letter of opposition, in 2020, New Hampshire had 156,000 paid fishing license holders who spent a total of $6 million on licenses – many of whom were taking part in ice fishing. HB 534 has the potential to negatively impact much-needed revenue for the American System of Conservation Funding – the unique “user-pays, public-benefits” structure in which funding for conservation is derived from license sales and excise taxes on sporting-related goods. These funds are the lifeblood for state fish and wildlife agencies, such as the New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) Department. Limiting access to sportsmen and women poses to upend a portion of the funding needed by the NHFG Department to implement on-the-ground fish, wildlife, and habitat management efforts. HB 534 has not only the potential, but the likelihood of limiting such access, and for this reason, poses to undercut critical conservation dollars.

Relatedly, this legislation would also create a patchwork of municipal regulations that are inconsistent from body of water to body of water – even within the same municipality. This creates a burdensome and time-consuming system of enforcement for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Law Enforcement Division.

CSF will continue to remain engaged on HB 534 and will provide updates on this legislation as they are made available.

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