On March 31, the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee passed Senate Bill 208 by a unanimous 7 to 0 vote. Sponsored by state Senators Gail Schwartz (D-5) and Mary Hodge (D-25), SB 208 would combine State Parks and the Division of Wildlife under the Department of Natural Resources.
The NRA has remained neutral on this legislation, but brought forth detailed concerns about this merger in an e-mailed letter sent to lawmakers on the committee. We were very clear that our primary interest is that dollars collected from hunters be used solely for the benefit of hunters. Specifically, sportsmen pay hunting license fees and federal excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and certain hunting equipment. Those funds are then returned to the state. Any allocation of those dollars to non-hunter related activities would put the state in diversion and jeopardize those federal monies.
We also have concerns that any newly-established boards or commissions having a membership beyond the hunting community may approve policies adverse to hunting and sportsmen. For example, in some states, we have seen public land use closures and lead ammunition bans, among others, that negatively impact hunters despite the disproportionate share of funds contributed from sportsmen.
Unfortunately, we have witnessed issues such as the aforementioned in a handful of states where departments and agencies were consolidated. Just this year in