https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/march-april-2024-advocacy-update-1/

State Updates:

Washington

At least 10 gun control bills were introduced, and several passed during the recent legislative session. RMEF members generated several hundred letters opposing HB 2118, legislation that appears intended to put small sporting goods stores that sell firearms out of business. The one-size-fits-all security equipment mandate alone will cost businesses $100,000, and the array of duplicative and costly regulations the bill imposes will drive up expenses. The bill fully takes effect in 2025, so there will be an opportunity to amend or repeal the law in the next session.

Efforts to modernize charitable gambling laws failed to advance at the legislature, but a package of rules and adjustments to make raffles more efficient and successful are progressing with the Gambling Board. Bills to authorize a constitutional right to hunt and fish, eliminate the fish and wildlife commission, and create an eastern Washington gray wolf management working group all failed as well.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is considering an update to the gray wolf status to “down-list” wolves from “endangered” to “sensitive”—with RMEF’s support. Maintaining oversight of the commission remains a priority for RMEF with a faction of commissioners bent on changing traditional wildlife management and increasing protections for predators.

Oregon 

RMEF was involved with several issues during the short budget session, including new CWD funding of $795,000 for ODFW for seasonal sample collection specialists and a state lab technician, and $1.9 million for zoonotic diseases and CWD funding at the state veterinary lab. Several bills of interest did not pass, including and elk damage compensation bill, a highway crossings bill and a wildlife “coexistence” bill.

The Oregon Board of Forestry narrowly approved a new Habitat Conservation Plan that will reduce active forest management on state lands by reducing timber harvest by at least 20%, and as much as 33% by some estimates. The new plan is in response to Endangered Species Act lawsuits. Combined with reduced harvest on federal lands, this could dramatically reduce elk and deer habitat quality.

Initiative Petition 28 is the latest iteration of the crazy anti-hunting-fishing-livestock-pest control ballot measure that a group of Portland-based extremists are trying to qualify for the ballot in 2026. RMEF and other hunting interests are participating in the title and summary setting process to ensure that voters understand that this would ban all hunting and fishing, livestock slaughter, lethal pest control, rodeos, artificial insemination for breeding pets and livestock, and more.

Utah

Utah RMEF volunteers were part of a coalition that championed $1 million in recurring annual funding for highway crossings. Utah is the first state to commit ongoing state funding to address wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Wyoming

The recent short session was dominated by budget wrangling, but a proposal that concerned RMEF and other wildlife interests was HB60, which would have mandated the game and fish department to pay damage payments of up to 150% of the value of private land forage consumed by elk. The bill passed the House but failed to be passed by the Senate. Other wildlife bills included SF111, which narrowly failed, but sought to separate mule deer and whitetail licenses and seasons. A bill that passed was HB43 that funds state Good-Neighbor positions to expand the forestry work conducted on federal lands by state employees.

Colorado

The Colorado session is still ongoing, and a number of new gun bills have been introduced that RMEF is engaging with. SB131 would expand the places that prohibit the carrying of firearms which, as drafted, would include state wildlife areas. HB1349 would drastically raise taxes on guns and ammunition in mockery of the Pittman-Robertson federal excise tax with most of the money dedicated to an amorphous victims’ fund. HB1292 is a new attempt to ban “assault weapons,” an effort that has been ruled unconstitutional in the past.

A new bill has been introduced to authorize the reintroduction of federally threatened wolverines, but requires the state to receive flexibility from the feds through an Endangered Species Act 10j non-essential experimental population classification. RMEF has some concerns that wolverine’s threatened status will be used by environmental extremists to block future forest management activity, but wolverines as predators or scavengers are not of concern to elk and deer populations.

RMEF is supporting SB126 to expand conservation easement tax credits, and SB26 to require Parks and Wildlife Commissioners to meet with the stakeholder groups they are appointed to represent. RMEF is opposing HB1375, a bill to require non-lethal coexistence for “native wild carnivores.”

Nearly 1,500 RMEF members contacted their legislators opposing the appointments of two Parks and Wildlife Commission members, Jess Beaulieu and Gary Skiba.  Skiba is a wolf advocate, Defenders of Wildlife member, and was generally opposed by hunters—but was appointed as a sportsman representative position on the commission. His confirmation would have failed, and he withdrew, creating a vacancy on the commission. Beaulieu is an animal’s rights attorney at the University of Denver Law School, and she was narrowly confirmed. RMEF is focused on encouraging the Governor to appoint a more reasonable sportsman representative to the commission.

 

Federal

RMEF’s Director of Government Affairs testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee and Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee on March 6 in support of HR7408, the American Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act. RMEF’s focus is on the bill’s policy reforms, which include fixing the Cottonwood ruling and to better integrate state management for threatened species.

The post March/April 2024 Advocacy Update appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

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