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KEN PERROTTE: DGIF considering name change

KEN PERROTTE: DGIF considering name change

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THE Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries may be changing its name to Board of Wildlife Resources if a bill by Sen. Creigh Deeds, (D–District 25) fully progresses though the General Assembly. The legislation recently passed unanimously in the full senate.

A fiscal impact document states DGIF anticipates spending a minimum of $300,000 from the Game Protection Fund for new signage for its facilities, hatcheries and lands, plus website design, licensing system design, uniforms, auto decals, regulations, publications, business cards and other miscellaneous business areas.

Department Director Ryan Brown, who is up for full confirmation this session under Senate Joint Resolution 71, explains the name change should help the agency from a marketing standpoint.

There are 8.5 million people in Virginia and many don’t recognize what game and inland fisheries connotes, Brown said. Adopting a term such as “wildlife resources” will help with understanding and also align Virginia with many other states that have similarly modified the name or their state game agencies.

“Long term, we’ll need more than just the sportsman’s funding to sustain the agency,” Brown said. “We need to broaden funding resources.”

Brown said sportsmen and women don’t need to worry about a diminished emphasis on hunting and fishing. “There is no change in the mission, just a change in the name,” he said.

Legislative Update

This is an incredibly voluminous general assembly session in terms of proposed legislation. Many bills have failed. Others are approved or amended and await “crossover” to the other “body” (the House or the Senate) for further attention.

Here’s an update on a few outdoors-related bills:

House Bill 173 was amended and expanded to state that the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall not license any stationary waterfowl blind in any area of Hunting Creek, Little Hunting Creek, or Dogue Creek where the local governing body has an ordinance prohibiting bird hunting with a firearm. It passed 60-36 in the house. This bill originally pertained only to Little Hunting Creek, a fairly narrow waterway. Now, it adds Dogue Creek, nearly a mile wide at its mouth with half the creek abutting Fort Belvoir, which allows waterfowl hunting. Bad amendment.

Senator Richard Stuart’s SB 987 reported out of committee. The biggest change is prohibition on hunting or shooting migratory waterfowl in public waters from a boat or other floating craft within 150 yards of a residence without the consent of the landowner, except when in active pursuit of a visible visibly crippled waterfowl which that was legally shot by the person.

Sunday hunting on public lands will have to wait as HB 1632 was defeated 13-9 in a committee vote. Hypocritically, the Farm Bureau–vociferous opponent of any Sunday hunting, even on a person’s own land-spoke against this bill by Del. James Edmunds. This organization has, as the saying goes, no skin in the game when it comes to dictating activity on public lands. I wonder if they testified about how many farmers were shot off their tractors in the six years it has been legal to hunt private lands on Sunday. Of course, the answer is none.

If HB 1357 passes, Virginia residents will be able to sell fish or wildlife mounts, providing the species was legally taken and underwent the taxidermy process. It passed in committee. It’s a good bill that will help people liquidate estates or no-longer-wanted keepsakes.

Creation of a Wildlife Corridor Action Plan is the goal of SB 1004 by Sen. David Marsden. These plans help ensure wildlife habitat doesn’t become fragmented, enabling movement and migration of animals. They are increasingly common in forward-thinking states that value wildlife. It is still in committee.

Senate Bill 774 passed the Senate unanimously after an amendment. It would prohibit offering for sale or purchase hunts guaranteeing you will kill a deer, bear or wild turkey. It doesn’t affect landowners who lease land for hunting. This amendment is mainly designed to guard against high-fenced hunting operations creeping into Virginia.

While SB 318 doesn’t sound like an outdoors bill, it would reduce the number of balloons per hour a person may release without penalty from 49 to one. I detest seeing these balloons floating in beaver ponds, in forests or anywhere else they settle back to earth. I wish, excepting for kids with occasional faulty grips, that they were completely illegal for release. It is rank pollution and a hazard to wildlife. It passed the Senate 25-15.

Folks who like to shoot on their own rural properties should be concerned about SB 353, which would prohibit any outdoor shooting range within 500 yards of a residentially zoned property unless it meets range design criteria developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Health, Safety and Security. It’s unclear how this would affect rural landowners who occasionally set up targets to zero or test personal firearms, including handguns. The fines would be hefty.

A host of firearms bills, including bans or registration of scary-looking modern sporting rifles (AR-15s), are still in play. Fortunately, SB 18, which had a provision that no person under age 18 could handle firearms without adult supervision, was pulled by its sponsor.

Another proposal, HB 960, by Alexandria Del. Mark Levine, would further tax up to 10 percent law-abiding gun owners and shooters to fund a Student Mental Health and Safety Fund. Why not stick it to gun owners, hunters and recreational shooters who already, voluntarily, pay the freight for conservation in this country via excise taxes on guns and ammo? It is still in committee.

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