Thursday, January 20, 2005
Bill Cochran's Outdoors: Bills, bills and more bills that impact outdoorsmen
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
A little fish is grabbing whale-size attention in the Virginia General Assembly. Of the more than 30 bills under considered that directly impacts outdoor sportsmen, the legislation generating the most talk is HB 1795, which address the management of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay. It was introduced by Terrie Suit, R-Virginia Beach.
Other bills would reduce smokestack pollutants, establish a crossbow license, put more game wardens on Smith Mountain Lake and require that youngsters wear life jackets. More about them later.
The Coastal Conservation Association of Virginia, composed primarily of sport fishermen, has designated menhaden legislation as it No. 1 target in the 2005 General Assembly. The thrust is to turn the management of menhaden in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay over to the scientists of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, as is the case for other saltwater species. That task now rests with the General Assembly.
Menhaden are important to sport fisherman because they are a major food source for popular Bay species that include striped bass, bluefish and gray trout. Some anglers will tell you that stripers are becoming gaunt because menhaden populations have fallen. Menhaden also serve as important water filtering systems that helps removes the algae believed to be harming the troubled Bay.
Here’s the catch. This species also is valuable to commercial fisherman. A 10-ship commercial fleet operated out of Reedville by Houston-based Omega Protein catches as many as 300 million pounds of menhaden annually for everything from cat food to cosmetics. The corporation wants to protect its right to catch menhaden, a privilege that has been lost in most other Mid Atlantic States.
Similar legislation supported by sport fishermen failed last year, and CCA vowed to fight harder this time.
“We have asked people to contact their legislators in person about menhaden,” said John Bello, chairman of CCA in Virginia. “As usual, too many people think someone else will do it for them.”
OTHER LEGISLATION (Research these bills further on roanoke.com's Politics page, where you can check their status throughout the General Assembly session.)
>Legislation that would reduce smokestack pollutants would benefit outdoorsmen in a number of ways. It could make those backcountry views clearer in places like the Shenandoah National Park. The park is ranked as having the third-worst air quality of any major national park and many of its trout streams are harmed by acidity. It also could deal with airborne pollutants that end up in streams and lakes and contribute to PCBs in fish. State health officials recently elevated warnings on eating fish from several streams, lakes and the Chesapeake Bay. HB 2742, introduced by Jack Reid, R-Henrico, would force 15 coal burning power plans to substantially reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Opponents say it could lead to higher power costs or closed plants.
>Crossbows would come into the mainstream of hunting through a bill introduced by Watkins Abbitt, I-Appomattox. HB 2200 would created a special license that would allow the use of crossbows during the bowhunting season. Cost of the license would be set by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, but could not exceed $18.Under current law, only disabled people who meet certain criteria are allowed to hunt with crossbows.
>Game warden patrols on Smith Mountain Lake were cut back during the recent budget crunch of the DGIF. A bill by Stephen Newman, R-Forrest, would require the agency to have at least one warden on patrol during the boating season at Smith Mountain. This is a bad bill. The DGIF must have the option of where to place its wardens.
>Bills in both the House (HB 2237) and Senate (1083) would prohibit remote hunting, the kind where live animals are pursued with real ammunition by people using special Internet sites. These are good bills on a new twist that is bad for hunting.
>Two Senate Bills, SB 909 and SB 1061 would require kids 12 years old and younger to wear a life jacket while on recreation boats under 21 feet in length. This idea has lacked the support of the DGIF and has been shot down in previous sessions.
>The introduction of potentially dangerous Northern Snakehead fish into Virginia waters last year has outdoorsmen watching HB 2029. The bill would imposes Class 6 felony punishment on anyone who imports, possesses, transports, sells, purchases, gives, receives -- you get the point -- a nonindigenous aquatic nuisance species in Virginia. You still could lawfully catch such a species, kills it and reports it to the DGIF.
>SB 775 would provide a penalty of up to 12 mounts in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500 for persons who abandon, dispose of or dump a companion animal within a highway right-of-way. This is a PETA-supported bill. The Virginia Hunting Dog Owners Association opposes it, saying there is a thin line of subjective determination between a dog that has been dumped and one that is lost.
>The city of Hampton would get 2 percent of the 3.5 percent state general sales tax on watercraft sold in the city under SB 759, introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton. This is money that rightfully belongs to DGIF. An attempt at similar theft failed last session and should again this one.
>A drunken boat operator that causes the death of another person would be charged with involuntary manslaughter under HB 1756, introduced by William Janis, R-Oilville. SB 1149, introduced by Kenneth Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, would make it unlawful to hunt with a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or greater.
>HB 1914 would allow an individual to purchase more than one handgun within a 30-day period. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, introduced that measure. Cole also introduced HB 1917, which clarifies that a person lawfully carrying a gun on Sunday in an area that could be used for hunting will not be presumed to be hunting in violation of existing laws that prohibit Sunday hunting.
>HB 2102 would exempt bowhunters from wearing blaze orange when hunting in areas where firearms are prohibited.
>It would be legal for licensed Virginia auctioneers to sell at public auction the parts of legally taken, indigenous birds and animals under HB 2155, introduced by David Nutter, R-Christiansburg. HB 1827 would allow non-profit organizations to sell wildlife mounts as part of their fund-raising efforts. These measures are likely to be looked on with concern by sportsmen who fear they may stimulate poaching and market hunting.
>SB 1150 would make it the duty of any person involved in a hunting accident to render assistance to the person affected without risk of a lawsuit. The bill was introduced by Kenneth Stolle, R-Virginia Beach. Accidents would have to be reported.
>A bill that would have attempted to address the touchy issue of retrieving hunting dogs on private property has been withdrawn by its sponsor, Mark Cole. “When I saw that the anti-hunting groups started saying they thought this was a first step to eliminate hunting with dogs, I thought it would be best just to withdraw the bill (HB 1612),” said Cole.