No Down Time in the Bay State as Sportsmen’s Issues Take Center Stage

Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States

Highlights

  • On January 4, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture hosted a virtual hearing on several priority sportsmen’s policies, including but not limited to:
    • Sunday hunting authorizations
    • Crossbow use expansion for hunting
    • The Outdoor Heritage Act
    • Reimbursing the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for lost revenue from free and discounted licenses
  • Several bills on the Committee’s docket were introduced and supported by Co-Chairs and members of the Massachusetts Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted written testimony and spoke before the joint committee in favor of the numerous bills that would increase access and opportunity for the Bay State’s sportsmen and women.

Why it Matters: Sportsmen and women have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a “user pays – public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served a shining beacon for the management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Legislative efforts that encourage and expand the abilities of hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers by increasing access and opportunities have the potential to immediately bolster financial support for state fish and wildlife agencies, thus supporting their mission-driven conservation projects.

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture met virtually on January 4 for a hearing on several pieces of pro-sportsmen legislation. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) testified in support of the following bills before the Committee.

Crossbows
House Bill 991, House Bill 1024, and Senate Bill 536 would eliminate the existing restrictions on hunting with crossbows. Expanding the use of crossbows may increase hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation by offering another method of bow hunting. Further, crossbows, like traditional archery equipment, are also a useful tool for the management of deer populations in suburban and urban areas where the concerns of human-wildlife conflict and damage to property and the environment are particularly high.

Reimbursing the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Massachusetts Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Anne Gobi has been at the forefront of efforts to reimburse the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for lost revenue from free and discounted sporting licenses, as evidenced by Senate Bill 546. Currently, the Division is not reimbursed for the roughly 27,000 free licenses that are given to residents that are 70+ years old.

Sunday Hunting
House Bill 914, House Bill 984, House Bill 1015, and House Bill 1019 would authorize Sunday hunting, thus increasing access for Massachusetts' sporting community – especially for those who are unable to head afield during business days due to school, work, or extracurricular activities. A lift on the existing Sunday hunting prohibition has the high likelihood of resulting in increased license sales and spending on sporting equipment, resulting in increasing funding for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. CSF submitted a letter of support for this necessary legislation to the Committee.

Outdoor Heritage Act
Senate Bill 547, another Caucus introduced and supported bill, is a collective representation of numerous high-priority issues that CSF has engaged on for several years, including but not limited to Sunday hunting and crossbow authorizations.

CSF will continue to provide updates as they are made available.

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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?

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