As I report the recent events that have transpired in New Hampshire's state house this week, I'm reminded heavily of how I voted last election cycle. I made the choices I did with the intent of getting some relief from the non-stop harassment and constant barrage of anti-hunting legislation that seems to plague the "live free or die" state, and it's rich hunting, fishing and trapping base. With the recent events that have transpired with our Republican-controlled House and Senate - I'm rethinking how I'll vote next election cycle - and every NH citizen who slings a rifle, rod, bow or trap chain, should be thinking the same thing.
Senate Bill 48 Passes House - Despite grave concerns
NH Senate Bill 48, drafted by Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Woleboro), and staunchly supported by Kevin Avard (R-Nashua) and Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), seeks to gut and splice the NH Fish and Game Department's operation and management structure, amid rally cries from the Humane Society of the United States and a plethora of anti-hunting special interest groups. The bill seeks to develop a study commission to look into removal and redevelopment of the Fish and Game Department's managing and operating structure, and seeks to undermine the department's current management with animal rights proponents. The full text of the bill can be read here in its most current form. Supporters of the bill cite budget issues with the department as a sign that the department needs funding from resources other than Sportsmen and women, and therefore, must cave to the demands of an anti-hunting base to "win over" public approval. Funny thing, when the Department has requested taxes on kayaks and other recreational sources to assist with funding, these same people fight tooth and nail to reject the notion of assisting with funding. As for the "public approval" argument, whether you hunt or not you are currently free to enjoy wildlife watching as you see fit, the Department has seen record numbers of attendees at Fish & Game events in recent years, and is even featured on a nationally televised reality show.
Its painfully clear the NH public at large is satisfied with the Department's management structure and procedures for wildlife management; management that takes place with the unsolicited participation of the state's hunters, anglers, and trappers in conjunction with professional biologists and law enforcement officers. When you weigh all the facts surrounding the charlatanry behind SB48, the arguments by its supporters falls flat and exposes the true motivation behind the bill: Anti-hunting groups want control of wildlife management, and our politicians have cast their Sportsmen voter base to the side like second-class citizens.
I'm not opposed to a study bill to further investigate NHF&G's perceived budget woes, but the insinuation that scrutinizing the Department's operations and management will somehow remedy what SB48 supporters call "budget issues" is laughable, and suggests that NH's Sportsmen and women can be easily duped. The Humane Society of the US suggests that some hunters also support SB48 - a sad attempt to prop up a couple folks who haven't picked up a rifle since the 1990's and have a tendency to spend their retirement days with the company of anti-hunting groups like Project Coyote.
SB48 was retained by the House F&G Committee in the NH House of Representatives, where the majority of the committee saw the writing on the wall and vehemently opposed the bill outright. The bill was expected to die, before being called to the House floor for a full vote Tuesday morning. The House overturned the Committee's vote to kill the bill by a mere 17 votes. When Republican members of the House attempted to debate the bill's validity, and amend the bill to better protect Sportsmen, the Republican-controlled House erupted in boos and scowls. Despite the House majority of the F&G Committee opposing the bill, the House turned on itself Tuesday and voted to move forward with SB48.
The Senate and Governor
The bill will now make its way back to the NH Senate to approve the amendment, and then on to NH Governor Chris Sununu for final approval. The Sportsmen of New Hampshire are strongly advised to contact their Senators and the Governor's office to voice your opposition to the validity and perceived "need" for such a study bill. It should also be pointed out that years of attempts to get the non-hunting public involved in helping to pay for NHFG operations has been met with opposition. Additionally, Governor Sununu met with US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and NH's Sportsmen and women demographic just mere months ago to accept funding to support the Sportsmen and Women of America. I fear the Governor's approval of SB48 would greatly strain the currently fragile relationship his office has with NH's sporting community. I would certainly hope the Governor remembers the Ryan Zinke meeting when SB48 comes across his desk.
More Legislation plaguing NH Sportsmen & Women in 2018:
House Bill 1343: Beaver "Protection"
Rep. Carolyn Matthews (R-Raymond) has introduced questionable changes to the current beaver management RSA. The bill is drafted and heavily supported by two anti-trapping animal rights groups in NH. It seeks to restrict landowner's rights to mediate beaver nuisance conflicts with additional reporting, and strong arms the NH Fish & Game Department into pressuring expensive beaver flow pipe installation on landowners in lieu of trapping practices. The bill also requires additional reporting of beavers trapped (which is already performed by trappers) and forces landowners to prove non-lethal attempts to mitigate beaver issues is conducted prior to trapping - red tape that can put landowners in a bind as beavers flood property and destroy trees. The bill's wording is vague, and does not stipulate nuisance beaver issues from in-season fur trapping activities. The term "beaver protection" is a misnomer, as beaver populations in the state are thriving thanks in part to regulated trapping activities. Massachusetts passed similar legislation years back; ask a Massachusetts landowner with beaver issues how many hoops they need to jump through to hire a beaver trapper. Rep Matthews attempted to pass an even more restrictive version of this bill through the House last session. The full text of the bill can be viewed here.
House Bill 1412-FN: "Cruelty" to Wildlife
Now lets face it, no respectable hunter, angler, or trapper wishes to inflict cruelty onto game. One could argue its crazy to oppose legislation that would potentially help reduce cruelty to animals. However, this bill does not specify exactly what cruelty is defined as. Our friends in the Humane Society of the US could claim that catching a fish with a hook is a form of cruelty to wildlife - which means with this bill passing, a fishing trip with your kids could quickly turn into you becoming a convicted felon. That may be an extreme example, but you get my point. Until the bill is amended to omit hunting, fishing and trapping activities, NH Sportsmen should strongly oppose this one. The Humane Society tried vigorously to push this bill through the House last session - the fact that it was killed, and they have brought it back to stuff it through again tells me there is deception afoot. Oppose the hell out of this one folks, everyone's idea of "cruelty" is different, and I don't have faith in the creators of this bill to interpret that definition. Is shooting a deer with a bow cruel? How about maiming a fox with your Subaru on the highway? Think about it.
HB 1706: Wild Goose, Lake Sunapee Boat Access
Sportsmen and the NH Fish and Game Department have been trying to finalize construction of a boat launch on Lake Sunapee to allow boater access to the lake for decades. It seems every time the proper T's are crossed and I's are dotted, political foes find a way to stall or prohibit completion of the ramp. The tale of Wild Goose and the political blockades behind it are tales far too long to write out here. You can get a basic idea of the launch's history here. The Governor's office attempted to put the final axe in the Wild Goose debate earlier in 2017, but was met with staunch opposition by Sportsmen who felt the time had long passed for proper, safe access to Lake Sunapee with funding they helped generate. The outcome of Lake Sunapee boat access is unknown, but recent legislation looks to help Sportsmen and boaters out by trying to finalize Wild Goose construction funding. Sportsmen are encouraged to support this bill. The bill's text can be found here.
Read More about the last time the bills mentioned above were in session:
Senate Bill 48
So there you have it New Hampshire. Its time the Sportsmen and Women of the Granite State let their Legislators and Governor know how they feel about the constant attacks on our heritage, traditions, and scientifically sound wildlife management activities. Contact your Senators and House members via my "Take Action" page, which will director you to the Government site. As I write up this legislative alert, I have chosen to medicate my aching head with a glass of fine scotch. I chose Talisker's Storm - with the hopes of a storm of phone calls, letters to local newspapers and legislators, and social media posts from disgruntled and fed up sportsmen and conservationists descends upon our local politicians with a fury that won't soon be forgotten. Cheers.