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June 9, 2011 by  
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Youth Hunting Efforts Underway Nationwide

Efforts to expand youth hunting opportunities are on the move throughout the country.  These bills, which are in-line with the Families Afield initiative, are designed to introduce more youth to hunting.

Michigan HB 4371 eliminates the minimum hunting age and creates a mentored youth hunting program for those less than age 10. This allows youth to hunt under the supervision of an experienced adult mentor prior to completing hunter education.  HB 4371 recently cleared the House of Representatives and is now pending in the Senate.  Similar legislation has already cleared the Senate, so further action will be needed before it is sent to the Governor.

New Jersey SB 2913 would allow the state to offer youth apprentice licenses for firearms and bow and arrow hunting.  The licenses would allow youth ages 11 to 15 to try hunting under the guidance of an experienced adult mentor before having to completing hunter education.  SB 2913 is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Environment and Energy.

New York SB 177 reduces the minimum age for youth to hunt deer or bear with a bow and arrow from 14 to 12.  Under the bill, 12 and 13 year olds must be accompanied while hunting.  SB 177 was recently signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Oklahoma HB 1338 expands the state’s apprentice hunting license to allow youth ages 8 and 9 to hunt.  Currently, only youth 10 and older can use the apprentice license.  HB 1338 was recently signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin.

Pennsylvania SB 502 would allow the state game commission to expand the mentored youth hunting program to include adults.  Currently, only those 11 and under are able to participate.

The Families Afield initiative was established by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the National Wild Turkey Federation to bring a new generation of sportsmen to the field.  Along with the National Rifle Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Families Afield coalition has worked to pass measures in 32 states with more than 600,000 apprentice or mentored hunting licenses sold since the program’s inception.

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Oil and Gas Bill Threatens Millions in Sportsmen’s Wildlife Conservation Dollars

Ohio sportsmen must act today to contact legislators and tell them to fix House Bill 133.  If sportsmen don’t act now, Ohio risks losing hunting opportunities on wildlife lands and millions of federal sportsmen’s dollars used for wildlife conservation in the state.

House Bill 133, sponsored by Representative John Adams (R- Sidney), would allow for the leasing of state lands for oil and gas exploration and drilling.  To do so, the bill establishes a new oil and gas leasing commission and requires state lands be classified into four categories.

Despite repeated assurances that the bill would be fixed to protect sportsmen’s interests, the bill still contains language that would take away the Division of Wildlife’s (DOW) authority to manage state hunting lands and would threaten millions of sportsmen’s dollars that are used for wildlife conservation in the state.

Language added to the bill in the House would require state agencies to take steps to reclassify lands to make it easier for the commission to lease them for oil and gas drilling.

The only way for the DOW to reclassify its land would be to refuse to take sportsmen’s dollars returned to the state through the federal Pittman-Robertson Act.  These funds are derived from hunting and fishing license dollars and excise taxes paid by sportsmen that are returned to the states each year.  These funds are critically important to the Division of Wildlife in order to manage state game lands.

As sportsmen throughout Ohio know well, state wildlife land and the wildlife conservation programs are largely paid for by money that comes directly from sportsmen.

“Despite this, the language in HB 133 elevates oil and gas interests above the primary purpose for which wildlife lands are kept in the first place – wildlife conservation,” said Jeremy Rine, USSA associate director of state services. “Oil and gas drilling has long been common place on state wildlife areas under the watchful eye of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The DOW must retain the ultimate authority over these lands to ensure leasing takes place only where it is compatible with the reason these lands were purchased in the first place.”

While the House of Representatives did make numerous changes to improve the bill, additional protections are needed.  The bill could be voted out of the Senate Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources as early as next Tuesday.  Sportsmen must act today to make sure wildlife conservation and federal sportsmen’s dollars are protected.

Take Action! Ohio Sportsmen should contact their state senator and the members of the Senate Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee today.  Tell them to fix House Bill 133 to protect sportsmen, wildlife conservation, and the millions of dollars in federal funding that is at stake.  To find your state senator’s phone number and other contact information, use the USSA Legislative Action Center at www.ussportsmen.org/lac.

Senate Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resource Committee Members

Chair Cliff Hite
Phone- 614-466-8150
Fax- 614-719-3976
Email- sd01@senate.state.oh.us

Vice Chair Tim Schaffer
Phone- 614-466-5838
Email- sd31@senate.state.oh.us

Senator Keith Faber
Phone- 614-466-7584
Fax- 614-644-7339
Email-sd12@senate.state.oh.us

Senator Timothy J. Grendell
Phone- 614-644-7718
Email-sd18@senate.state.oh.us

Senator Gayle Manning
Phone- 614-644-7613
Email- sd13@senate.state.oh.us

Senator Jimmy Stewart
Phone- 614-466-8076
Fax- 614-719-6992
Email- sd20@senate.state.oh.us

Ranking Minority Member Jason H. Wilson
Phone- 614-466-6508
Email- sd30@maild.sen.state.oh.us

Senator Edna Brown
Phone- 614-466-5204
Fax- 614-719-6948
Email- sd11@maild.sen.state.oh.us

Senator Joe Schiavoni
Phone- 614-466-8285
Fax- 614-719-3961
Email- sd33@maild.sen.state.oh.us

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