Friday, June 01, 2007

The Sportsmen's Voice

Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation Website

CSF Brings Hunting and Shooting Industry To The Hill
Representatives from the hunting and shooting industry were in Washington, DC recently to meet with USDA Under Secretary Chuck Conner and Senate Caucus Co-Chairs Max Baucus (D-MT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) for a briefing on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

CSF President Jeff Crane introduced the industry representatives by noting, “In the room we have representation from the leading gun and ammunition manufacturers, as well as the leading retailers and distributors of hunting and fishing equipment. But more importantly, we have a room full of conservationists. We are looking to the industry to weigh-in to make this the strongest conservation title possible."

NSSF President Doug Painter added, “Given that nearly $20 billion dollars come out of the conservation titles of the Farm Bill, this legislation far and away has the greatest impact on providing for quality habitat. And in the end when the habitat is good, hunting is good and when hunting is good, hunters hunt more often and spend more money on gear. There is a direct connection between the Farm Bill and the bottom line of outdoor industry."

Sen. Baucus’s message to the industry representatives was clear and resounding, “You must get involved and make your voices heard to ensure conservation titles stay on the front burner. Being here today and delivering your message is important. But more important is to stay in touch when you go back home, keep calling us and reminding us. If we are not hearing from you, your issues won’t stay on the front burner. It is the follow up that counts.”

SCI Recognizes Sportsmen’s Caucus Legislators
Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Vice-Chair Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and California Outdoor Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth have been named SCI’s Legislators of the Year. The award recognizes leadership and vision on the federal and state levels on behalf of sportsmen and women and for the promotion of sound wildlife and conservation practices.

Upon presentation of the awards, Ralph Cunningham, President of SCI, said, “Senator Nelson is one of the finest stewards of natural resources on Capitol Hill. His dedication to conservation and the hunting heritage is unparalleled.”

Merle Shepard, Chairman of SCI’s Governmental Affairs, said, “Sen. Hollingsworth is arguably the premier defender of hunting, fishing, and shooting sports in the Golden State."

SCI Stampedes the Hill
During SCI’s week in Washington, more than 200 SCI members from around the country met with members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and other Members of Congress to discuss priority hunting and conservation legislation. In total, SCI had more than 180 meetings. Speaking to the SCI members, CSC Vice-Chair Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) reminded them that “CSF is your [sportsmen’s community] staff on Capitol Hill, make sure you continue your strong partnership with them.” He went on to say, “The Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus will be instrumental in protecting landowner-friendly conservation in the Farm Bill."

Sportsmen and Wildlife Close To Landing A Victory
The House version of the Defense Authorization Act recently passed with language inserted by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David Price (D-NC) that would prevent the Navy from building an airfield on an Eastern North Carolina site near a wildlife refuge. For the prohibition to go through, the Senate must include the language in its version of the defense bill.

“We are getting closer to landing a victory for sportsmen and wildlife,” commented Jeff Crane, CSF President. “It has been a real team effort with local sportsmen leading the charge to rally the support of national groups.” CSF sent a letter to President Bush opposing the proposed site and joined a press conference earlier this spring highlighting concerns over the site.

Sporting Conservation Council Meets with Departments of Interior and Agriculture
The third meeting of the federal advisory Sporting Conservation Council took place in Washington, DC last week and included frank discussions with the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior, as well as senior staff from the respective departments. Key issues included: Endangered Species Act reform, energy development and wildlife, management of game species in National Parks, Farm Bill reauthorization and Forest Service planning and sportsmen’s access.

The Council concluded the two-day meeting with the following recommendations to the Secretaries: a) encouraging the departments to use landscape scale assessments to better identify and protect important wildlife corridors; b) consulting with the state wildlife agencies on management decisions on federal lands; c) utilizing hunters in lieu of contract sharpshooters on National Park lands to reduce overpopulations of wildlife; d) supporting manmade water developments on federal lands where those developments can deliver positive benefits to the wildlife; and e) outlining the conservation priorities for the Farm Bill while encouraging the department to support those in discussions with Congress.

Legislation Introduced To Ease Undue Regulations on Recreational Boaters
As the nation’s 73 million recreational boaters celebrated the start of the 2007 boating season during Memorial Day weekend, Congress took action to preserve recreational boating as we know it. Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Members, Representatives Gene Taylor (D-MS) and Candice Miller (R-MI) have introduced legislation to prevent commercial shipping regulations from expanding and burdening family boaters. Unless Congress passes this legislation, boaters could spend future Memorial Day weekends waiting in long lines to pay for expensive new permits.

H.R. 2550, “The Recreational Boating Act of 2007,” would permanently codify the longstanding exemption for incidental recreational boat discharges under the Clean Water Act. It would grant EPA authority to reinstate its 34-year exemption for recreational boats, which a U.S. District Court nullified in Sept. 2006. Boats will continue to be heavily regulated for sewage, oil, garbage and other pollutants under existing statutes.

Sportsmen Access To Time-Honored Hunting Lands Protected
With the final gavel of the Missouri 2007 General Assembly, sportsmen had cause to celebrate with the passage of the “Hunting Heritage Protection Areas Act.” Supported strongly by the Missouri Sportsmen’s Caucus’s, the legislation prohibits taxpayer-financed development projects within the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers 100-year flood plain, mandating that these areas be open to hunting and remain that way. The bill also prohibits localities from banning lawful hunting and sport shooting in the protected areas.

This bill was signed by the Governor on May 1 after a letter of support was sent by the Missouri Caucus that read “Our caucus is here to consider sportsmen’s issues and ensure that the sportsmen’s voice is heard in Jefferson City. Arguably the most pressing issue for sportsmen is access to quality habitat. We have worked hard with our many partners to protect Missouri sportsmens’ ability to access the outdoors and hunt on our lands.” This precedent-setting legislation will protect Missouri’s time-honored hunting heritage and critical wildlife habitat for current and future hunters and sport shooters.

Another victory for law-abiding sportsmen was the defeat of legislation that would have made it a crime if a person did not store his firearm in a locked safe if a minor was capable of gaining access to the firearm.

Texas Caucus Wins Victories for Hunters and Anglers

Texas sportsmen are thankful that the Texas legislature was listening to their expressed concerns as the newly passed budget initiates a process to fully allocate license and stamp monies collected by the Texas Park and Wildlife Department. Historically, the legislature has used these funds to balance the state budget. As a result, the legislature has built up a $50 million dollar "unappropriated" balance in the hunting and fishing license and stamp fund. The sporting community has expressed real frustration that these dollars are not being appropriated for their intended use -- putting conservation, hunting and angling on the ground -- and organized to lobby for the release of these monies to be used for their intended use. With the passage of the new budget which allows for the TPWD to use these funds over the next five years, many needed projects will now be able to be funded.

In addition, the new Texas Outdoor Partners, a coalition of 45 Texas hunting, fishing and conservation organizations, supported the Texas Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus on several other issues including extensive and needed Park funding, comprehensive water legislation addressing environmental flows, water conservation and land stewardship in water management, as well as resolving potentially detrimental animal cruelty legislation. Sportsman Caucus Chairman Carl Isett, Representative Harvey Hilderbran, Representative Sid Miller, Senator Kip Averitt, and Senator Craig Estes were leaders in ensuring victories for the sportsmen and -women during the just completed legislative session.

South Carolina and Oklahoma Open Youth Hunting Days

Supported by the South Carolina Sportsmen’s Caucus, including Caucus Co-Chair Mike Pitts, legislation passed and has been signed by the Governor to reduce the age restriction for participation in Youth Hunting Days. The legislation allows all youth under the age of 18 to enjoy Youth Days, provided they are accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years of age and older. Prior, only youth ages 10 to 18 could participate. South Carolina hosts numerous Youth Hunting Days for dove, deer, turkey and other game throughout the year.

In Oklahoma, legislation was approved by the legislature and signed by the Governor to allow youth under 16 to hunt small game without taking hunter safety education if they are accompanied by a licensed hunter over 21. New hunters from ages 16 to 35 may also purchase an apprentice license which will allow them to hunt all game, but they must be accompanied by a licensed hunter at least 21 years of age.

Internet Hunting Now Banded in More Than 30 States

Introduced by members of the Illinois Sportsmen’s Caucus, including Co-Chairs Representatives Dan Rietz and Brandon Phelps, state lawmakers have approved a ban on hunting live game by computer. The Nebraska legislature has also passed legislation banning internet hunting. These states join the more than 30 states that have now outlawed remote hunting via the internet.

The Sportsman's Link to Congress and State Capitols
Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses
110 North Carolina Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003