Temporary Victory for Florida Duck Hunters, Challenges Continue

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

Highlights

  • Last year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commission proposed rule changes for establishing Restricted Hunting Areas (RHAs), and after receiving strong pushback from the hunting community this year, the FWC revisited the RHA rule change proposal before their August meeting.
  • After slight modifications were made to the proposed rule, the implementation of a 300-foot buffer zone separating a dwelling from where a hunter can discharge a firearm remained in the rule proposal.
  • On July 31, CSF and partners submitted comments expressing disappointment that the FWC did not incorporate recommendations from the hunting community into the revised rule proposal to strike a balance between the interests of landowners and the waterfowl hunting conservation community.
  • Prior to the August 4 FWC Commission meeting, the RHA rule proposal was stricken from the agenda for action and then added back to the agenda for public comment only. Nevertheless, more than 20 hunters from the across the state showed up to voice their disapproval of the rule proposal.

Why it Matters: The FWC Commission was expected to vote on the proposed rule change during its August meeting. After strong and coordinated pushback from the hunting community, the vote was postponed until a later date, indicating that the FWC is willing to works towards a revised rule that protects public access for waterfowl hunting.

The loss of public hunting opportunities in Florida has increased over the years due to suburbanization. The implementation of a 300-foot buffer zone between a dwelling and where a hunter discharges a firearm would further restrict hunting access to publicly owned waterbodies. A component to the rule change proposal that includes direction of fire away from a dwelling would alleviate the stresses of landowners while also ensuring that public access to public waters would still be available to the sportsmen and women in Florida.

The FWC is in the difficult position of trying to toe the line between the interests of landowners and hunters that rely on access to public waters for hunting, which they have been doing for generations. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), the Florida Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and many in-state and national partners have voiced their support for maintaining hunting access on Florida’s public waters and will continue to advocate for a balance approach that doesn’t exclude hunters from accessing public resources.

The RHA rule change proposal is expected to be added to the FWC Commission’s October meeting agenda, and CSF will continue to stay engaged as the rule proposal moves forward.

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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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