What does HB 1571 do?
Currently, New Hampshire statutes (RSA 206:2) only allows “sporting clubs” to nominate NH Fish and Game Commissioners and requires each nominee to be “an active outdoorsman holding a resident fishing, hunting, or trapping license in at least 5 of the 10 years preceding the appointment”. HB 1571 removes these requirements and will allow other relevant NH organizations to nominate commissioners. Expanding representation will ensure that Fish and Game’s governing body, the Commission, has broader expertise to address the critical issues that face our state regarding wildlife protection, land conservation, and resource management.
What problems does HB 1571 address?
- State wildlife agencies all over the US are in financial trouble. They are chronically underfunded, due to fewer people hunting which has reduced license sales funds. NH Fish and Game is no exception. Year after year the Department has dipped into NH general funds ($500,000 to $800,000 per year) and at the same time it continues to cut programs and personnel. This is not sustainable! Several studies have found that state wildlife agencies that have broadened their governance to include non-consumptive users such as birders, snowmobilers, conservationists, etc., have been more successful in securing non-traditional funding and in solving their budget crisis. One study can be found here: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/11185/Jacobson%20dissertation.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- The American Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has recognized the need to broaden wildlife governance and just this year passed a resolution that fish and wildlife agencies need to “examine the impact of societal changes on the relevancy of fish and wildlife conservation and make recommendations on how programs and agencies can transform to engage and serve broader constituencies”; https://www.fishwildlife.org/afwa-informs/resources/blue-ribbon-panel/relevancy-roadmap.
- The current law (RSA 206:2) does not allow for adequate representation of NH citizens on the Commission, as only 3% of NH residents have hunting licenses while all Commissioners are hunters, trappers, and/or fishermen. In a stunning disparity, while there are only about 550 NH trappers (about 0.04% of NH’s population), two of the 11-person Commission (18%) are leading advocates of trapping.
- The current NHFG Commission is more interested in catering to hunters and trappers than using sound science to guide their decisions. For example, in the 2017 biennial rule making, Department wildlife biologists recommended reducing the bag limit for fox because of their declining population. However, this proposal was overruled by the Commission upon a vigorous appeal from the trapper community. As a result, there are now no hunting or trapping bag limits for either fox species.
How will HB 1571 benefit and strengthen NH Fish and Game Department?
- Adding Commissioners who represent a greater diversity of wildlife interests would build support for the Commission’s vital role in managing NH’s public trust resources, its fish and wildlife, amongst a wider portion of NH’s population. This would help transform the agency into one that serves all the citizens of New Hampshire. We believe this would lead to more widespread support for developing supplemental sources for Department funding.
- Wildlife populations will benefit with more scientific expertise on the Commission. Rather than prioritizing maximization of “harvest”, more consideration will be placed on the ecological role wildlife play in NH’s ecosystem. The wider NH public will more appreciate a state agency that puts its wildlife and wild places first and will support that agency into the future.