New York Sportsmen’s Groups Unite to Oppose County Opt-Out Regulations

Contact: Nick Lewis, Mid-Atlantic States Coordinator

Highlights

  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation worked alongside several in-state sportsmen’s organizations to submit a sign-on letter of opposition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) proposed regulations that would allow local counties to “opt-out” of a prescribed hunting season.
  • Regulations that permit counties to voluntarily opt out-out of hunting seasons undermine the DEC’s proven ability to manage game populations.
  • The proposed changes came as a result of Senate Bill 6510, a failed legislative attempt to codify the ability of counties to opt-out of certain hunting seasons.

Why it Matters: The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is the primary manager of fish and wildlife and their habitats in the Empire State. The DEC is entrusted with these responsibilities, for which it utilizes science-based adaptive management models that allow for adaptations to changing conditions in real-time. Evaluating the many variables that go towards setting hunting seasons, and working alongside the inter-departmental staff, the DEC, through its regulatory process, is currently able to shorten or expand the season to ensure healthy, stable game populations. Similarly, the Department is the most well-informed entity on current harvest rates and may be able to increase or decrease bag limits, should there be a need. It is critical that the DEC continue to manage wildlife unencumbered by external pressures and relying on the best scientific data.

On November 14, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) joined Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, New York Conservation Fund Advisory Board, New York Crossbow Coalition, New York 4-H Shooting Sports, New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council, New York State Conservation Council, and the New York Chapters of Safari Club International to oppose regulations that would have allowed counties to “opt-out” of the late season holiday hunt. These proposed regulations threaten to cede the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) management authority, setting a dangerous precedent that authorizes local officials to manage wildlife rather than professionals.

This proposed regulation is a direct result of a previous attempt in the state legislature to usurp the authority of the DEC through Senate Bill 6510, and is an attempted compromise to prevent legislative mandates on the DEC. The DEC concedes in their Regulatory Impact Statement that without its proposed regulation, there is “the potential” for the state legislature to intervene. Additionally, the DEC yields that the cause of these regulations is “perceived potential conflicts,” while noting that these perceptions are mostly unfounded. The DEC also states that the regulations are a result of complaints from elected officials who were concerned that private landowners may favor deer hunters rather than other types of outdoor user groups during the holiday season. These external pressures are forcing the DEC to propose regulatory action that runs counter to their preferred management, as evidenced by the fact that the holiday hunt was adopted uniformly just last year.

Establishing the precedent of forfeiting wildlife management authority could lead to a trend where local governments, who are not in the best position to make management decisions, ask for authority to change hunting and fishing seasons whenever it is politically convenient to do so. The DEC and its predecessor have been the driving force behind New York’s on-the-ground conservation efforts that have resulted in healthy wildlife populations. Therefore, the DEC, as an independent regulatory body, must retain authority to set seasons.

CSF urges the DEC to maintain full regulatory authority and reject the pressure to adopt these amendments.

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