By John Culclasure, Central Appalachian States Manager
The bipartisan and bicameral Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus continues to hold weekly meetings to discuss issues that impact sportsmen and women in the Commonwealth. Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Central Appalachian States Manager John Culclasure has been working closely with Virginia Sportsmen’s Caucus members and in-state partners on priorities for this legislative session.
Most recently, On January 24, Gary Costanzo, Migratory Game Bird Scientist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), gave a presentation on migratory bird management in Virginia, including updates on mallard and Canada goose populations and ongoing studies about American woodcock migration routes and habitat use. Additionally, on January 31, Dr. Gray Anderson, DGIF Chief of Wildlife, gave a presentation on various species of ticks, their distributions across the Commonwealth, tick-related diseases, and the impacts of ticks on wildlife.
Numerous bills of interest to sportsmen and women have been introduced in Virginia this session. Caucus Chair Delegate Edmunds supported legislation (HB 1613) to increase the penalty for violating regulations adopted by the Board of Game and Inland fisheries prohibiting wanton waste from a Class 3 misdemeanor to a Class 2 misdemeanor. The bill passed the House 99-0 on January 29.
Del. Edmunds also introduced legislation (HB 2340) this session that would create a state income tax deduction for resident hunting licenses. The deduction would be limited to the amount paid for no more than three licenses per year. The bill was assigned to the House Finance Subcommittee #1 on January 15.
Caucus member Delegate Buddy Fowler sponsored a bill (HB 1621) that would allow residents of the Commonwealth to purchase trip hunting licenses. Trip hunting licenses are currently available only for nonresidents. On January 29, HB 1621 passed the House 99-0.
Legislation discussed that is opposed by many waterfowlers, SB 1725 and HB 2658, would prohibit stationary blinds within 150 yards of a riparian owner’s shoreline at the mean lower mater mark unless written permission is obtained to construct it closer to shore. The legislation would restrict hunter access and effectively remove miles of public waterways from hunting by non-riparian owners (i.e. the general public) because many creeks and rivers are less than 300 yards wide. On January 28, the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Subcommittee #1 voted 8-0 to recommend laying the bill on the table after representatives from the sportsmen’s community spoke against the bill. SB 1725, however, passed the Senate 37-2 on January 31.
Sportsmen’s groups concerned about hunting with dogs also tracked substandard kennel legislation (SB 1025) and legislation (SB 1058) that would allow localities to adopt ordinances more stringent that state law. SB 1058 has seen no action since it was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources on December 6. SB 1025 passed the Senate 29-11 on January 24 and was referred to the House Committee on Rules on January 29.
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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?Vote Here
- Increase the number of states with discounted license tailored to specific groups. (3.70%)
- Increase access to public lands. (25.21%)
- Provide more information for new participants. (3.36%)
- Provide hands on opportunities to improve skills and knowledge. (14.96%)
- Engage youth through hunter and conservation programs in schools. (44.54%)
- I feel we have enough sportsmen and women and do not believe R3 programs are necessary. (8.24%)