Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights

Restore Integrity to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

The work of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has been highly politicized under Governor Bevin – so much so that the League of Kentucky Sportsmen recently sent the governor a four-page letter describing in detail the problems at the department and calling on him to fire Don Parkinson from his position as Secretary of Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet. We will restore the independence and integrity of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and shield it from improper political influence so that it can do its job of conserving fish and wildlife and serving the people of Kentucky. Furthermore, to ensure that the voices of Kentucky sportsmen are heard, we propose a system of county representatives, elected by sportsmen, to provide regular input to the district wildlife commissions.

Guarantee All Americans Access to Guns for Hunting, Self-Defense

In our view, and in the view of the Supreme Court of the United States, the second amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms. We are long-time gun owners and hunters and will work vigorously to protect the rights of law-abiding Kentucky sportsmen to purchase, own, and use guns for hunting and self-defense.

Kentucky sportsmen should not live in fear that the government is going to take away their guns or even force them to be registered. At the same time, mass shootings over the past few years have shown us that we have a way to go in developing a system that protects the right to bear arms and protects innocent people from becoming victims of gun violence. We need to do a better job of implementing current laws, including the background check system. We can have a fair and rational gun ownership system in this country that protects hunters’ second amendment right to bear arms, while working to prevent mass killings.

Oppose Selling Off or Transferring Our Public Lands

We will fight any attempt to sell or transfer our public lands or diminish them in any way. A considerable portion of our state is made up of public lands, and these lands belong to all Kentuckians.

They provide the public with places to hunting and fish, climb, bike, raft and otherwise enjoy the Kentucky outdoor experience. These activities in turn serve as the foundation of Kentucky recreation economy, providing good-paying jobs for thousands of residents, and making us a national leader in this industry. Thoughtful and effective conservation of these resources is necessary to in support Kentucky’s strong outdoor economy and way of life. Therefore, will work with the National Governors Association to oppose the national Republican Party’s longstanding commitment and stated 2016 platform goal of selling off public lands to private commercial interests.

• Expand Kentucky’s Wildlife Management Areas/Public Hunting Areas – Kentucky has dozens of wildlife management areas that are open to public hunting. They are crucial to providing our sportsmen with places to hunt and fish. We will work closely with the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to enhance habitat at these areas, expand them where possible, and generally work to provide more and better opportunities for sportsmen to hunt and fish in the state of Kentucky.

• Increase Sportsmen Access to Federal Lands – Kentucky sportsmen can lack sufficient access to federal lands, due to lack of access easements. To address this problem, we support the proposal to dedicate 1% of LWCF funds for improved access to federal lands.

• Increase Sportsmen Access to Private Lands – We will work with the National Governors Association and our Kentucky Congressional delegation to encourage Congress to expand funding for the Farm Bill Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, which currently enables the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to pay private landowners to open their lands to hunting and fishing if they choose.

Furthermore, we propose putting the hunting and fishing user permit process under the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to promote more access for Kentucky residents. Additional access and targeted Federal funding can expand and improve habitat while also leading to steps that will improve the land values of Kentucky residents.

Pass Along Kentucky’s Sporting Traditions through Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation of Hunters

• Amend Federal Law to Support State Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation of Hunters – A recent report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that participation in hunting declined by about 2 million people to a total of 11.5 million hunters last year. Total expenditures by hunters also declined 29 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $36.3 billion to $25.6 billion. This has significant ripple effects on not only the key federal funding models that support conservation of fish and wildlife, but also the base of support for our public lands and thoughtful natural resources policy. Moreover, it hampers the ability of state wildlife agencies to manage fish and game populations. In contrast, participation in fishing increased 8 percent since 2011, from 33.1 million anglers to 35.8 million in 2016, and total nationwide spending by anglers was up 2 percent. These efforts geared toward fishing and boating have been successful thanks to a funding provision in the Dingell-Johnson Act, also called the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, that allows a small percentage of these excise tax revenues to be used for recruitment and retention programs. Because the Pittman-Robertson Act, which created the excise tax on guns, ammunition, and archery equipment, does not permit using the funds for R3 activities, we will work the rough the National Governors Association and our Congressional delegation to encourage passage of the “Modernizing the Pittman- Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2018,” HR 2591, so we can promote hunting the same way we promote fishing and boating. Finally, we must recruit and cultivate the next generation of hunters through creative incentives.

Conserve and Enhance Kentucky Habitat to Maintain Robust Fish and Wildlife Populations

• Restore, Conserve and Enhance Wildlife Habitat – Today, there are about 2,300 species listed under the Endangered Species Act. State wildlife agencies across the country have identified over 12,000 species that are in serious decline, and thus are in greatest need of conservation efforts. By the middle of this century, as many as 50 percent of all species could be heading toward extinction, leading to more and more ESA listings, and conflicts with the private sector. To address this challenge, Johnny Morris, the Founder of Bass Pro Shops, and former Wyoming Governor, Dave Freudenthal, co-chairs of the Blue-Ribbon Commission on Non-Game Habitat Funding, recommend that Congress provide states with $1.3 billion per year to improve habitat for non-game species. We will support enactment of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which achieves this goal, so that we can better avoid conflicts with the Endangered Species Act and restore habitat that will benefit a wide range of fish and wildlife species.

• Work with the Kentucky Congressional Delegation to Support Funding for Key Farm Bill Conservation Programs – USDA Farm Bill programs important to Kentucky include the Forest Stewardship Program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Reserve Program, especially the Continuous Signup, which funds conservation of key wildlife habitat of wetlands and uplands birds such as Bobwhite quail. We recognize that funding of habitat for essential game species, such as grouse, must be a priority and must include a strategic and forward-looking approach to forest management and utilization of the thousands of acres of land under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers.

• Support Full Funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – Since 1965, Kentucky has received money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support outdoor recreation, including shooting ranges. This $900 million per year fund was established in 1964 to help conserve America’s natural resources, but only twice since then has it been fully funded. This program has broad support among sportsmen and environmentalists and the outdoor recreation community, and we will support full funding for the program every year.

• Support full funding for the Farm Bill Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) – Every year America loses 80,000 acres of wetlands that are important to waterfowl and wildlife, which jeopardizes the future of waterfowl hunting in Kentucky and across the country. NAWCA provides federal matching funding for projects to enhance and protect wetlands, thus helping to ensure that wetlands receive the protection they deserve to provide a bright future for waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.

• Restore Degraded Areas to Improve Fishing Opportunities – We will work with the Kentucky Congressional delegation and the National Governors’ Association to encourage Congress to support full federal funding for the Federal Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, as well as the National Fish Habitat Initiative, which restores and enhances fish and wildlife habitat on private lands, and to spend that money to enhance fishing opportunities in Kentucky.

• Support Kentucky’s Efforts to Prevent Wildlife Collisions – Collisions between vehicles and wildlife are increasingly common in Kentucky, often leading to dead animals and damaged cars, trucks and passengers. For example, in 2015, the commonwealth recorded 6,432 animal-involved collisions that resulted in six fatalities and 771 injuries, according to the Kentucky State Police. To address this problem, we will undertake studies of the causes of these collisions and actively look for ways to prevent them, including erecting wildlife fencing in key areas, as well as underpasses and overpasses for wildlife to cross.

• Prepare Kentucky’s Fish and Wildlife Habitat for Climate Change – Climate change will present serious challenges to fish and wildlife across Kentucky, reshuffling ecosystems, degrading habitat, warming rivers, and forcing wildlife to migrate to new areas. To prepare Kentucky for the effects of climate change, we will work closely with federal land managers, private landowners, and Kentucky’s conservation organizations to protect our wild lands and other open spaces, carefully plan development to reduce habitat fragmentation, and improve connectivity across the landscape so that wildlife can easily migrate as needed. As part of this effort, we will restore and enhance degraded fish and wildlife habitat across the state to make Kentucky’s fish and wildlife habitat more resilient to climate change.