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Minority Report of HB 1571

According to RSA 206:4 the mission of the Fish and Game Commission is to, as all the citizens’ representatives, conserve and protect the state’s wild resources, using scientific data to maintain healthy populations of wildlife and maintain public lands for all lawful recreation.  The Commission is therefore inherently meant to conserve our public trust of wildlife and lands, based on scientific data, and not be friendly to only one interest group.  However, in recent years there has been a troubling pattern of the Commission overruling recommendations from the department’s own wildlife biologists.  Bobcat trapping, a refusal to set bag limits on declining species like red and grey fox and fisher, and a refusal to have an off-season during coyote whelping, as well as a lack of response to numerous Department audit recommendations, and what has been widely reported as a politicized decision in the ending of the director’s tenure, have all fallen under heavy public and media criticism.  Currently the only effective requirement to be a Commissioner is to have had a hunting, fishing, or trapping license in five of the previous 10 years, and to be nominated by sporting organization.  The minority feels that this leads to a commission that only represents the interests of hunters, sometimes to the exclusion of science and conservation.  No other state requires their Fish and Wildlife Commissioners to hold such a license, and yet all states have hunting, and many have excellent hunting.  HB 1571 would change the requirements of the Commissioners, guaranteeing that half of the commission would represent consumptive interests like hunters and anglers, and that half of the commission would represent conservation interests like wildlife biologists.  It also guarantees that some commissioners will represent non-consumptive recreation groups like hikers, which are also impacted by department decisions and are stakeholders in the public commons of our state’s wildlife.  Further, although hunting and fishing licenses are commonly believed to completely fund the department, upon studying the revenue sources for the department, only 40% of the department’s revenue is linked to actual hunting, trapping, or angling.  The majority of the Department’s revenue comes from the general fund, federal funds based on firearm and ammunition sales not related to hunting and boating registration not related to angling, non-game program donations, the Hike Safe card, and other recreational activities like OHRV.  Because the majority of the Department’s revenue comes from taxes and fees on those not hunting or fishing, because the Commission’s decisions affect many stakeholders other than hunters, because wildlife is a public trust for all NH citizens, and because the mission of the Commission is to protect that trust using scientific data, the minority feels strongly that all those stakeholders, not only hunters, should be represented on the Commission, and that the Commission will be able to make the best decisions when the voices of both the hunting community and scientists are brought together.  HB 1571 ensures that both interests always have equal representation on the Commission, and the voices of other outdoor recreationists are always heard.  Therefore the Minority strongly supports OTP.