Guest Column: Rep Mathew Wollmann reports on National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses

From my e-mail:


Fellow Caucus members and South Dakotans,

I had the distinct privilege of attending the 12th Annual National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Sportsman-Legislator Summit. Myself and legislators from 30 other states discussed current issues relate to environmental conservation, hunting, and fishing.

Such topics included the use of lead ammunition and its effect on the environment. I along with many other lawmakers, found it interesting that only .07% of animal deaths are caused by the use of lead ammunition. Habitat loss/destruction, and the building of structures both represent 30%. When lead is used in paint, it is in a different chemical form and is harmful to living organisms; however, the use of lead ammunition has not been found to directly affect animals, or those who consume animals shot with lead ammunition.

Another topic we briefly covered was the importation of Ivory and Trophy animals. There have been many states and countries that have banned the importation of these items. Ivory doesn’t affect us here in South Dakota, but the importation of trophy animals does. Some lawmakers and individuals think that banning these items may help curve illegal poaching, but in reality it hurts the communities’ revenue, which results in less funds to enforce and end such illegal activity.

Habitat management on public lands was a major topic. Timber being sold and harvested on federal land is down 80%, and firefighting costs now consume over half of the United States Forest Service (USFS) budget at 67%. As South Dakota legislators, we see this directly when we try to allocate funds for the Pine Beetle efforts out west. Allocations for the creation of young forest habitat have also decreased; consequently, as a nation we have seen a 15% decline in wild turkey, a decline of Ruffed Grouse, the eradication of Elk habitat, a 66% decline of the Golden Winged Warbler, and an overall 59% decline of all bird species. Simultaneously, the federal government’s budget allocation to the USFS is also declining—it is paramount that we as a state continue to correctly and efficiently manage our public lands, and work to acquire as much federal land as possible.

There is some good news though. H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests act of 2015 is a comprehensive bill aimed at expediting and improving forest management activities in federal forests. It builds upon many legislative concepts introduced in this and previous Congresses to address disastrous consequences of catastrophic wildfire, insect, disease infestations, and other threats to our nation’s forests. This bill seeks to return resilience to overgrown, fire-prone forested lands. This legislation builds upon the 2014 Farm Bill to extend limited “categorical exclusion” authorities, enabling the forest service to expedite critical forest health projects. It also allows agencies to request and access emergency disaster funds if firefighting budgets are exhausted, and establishes revolving funds for projects. Most importantly for South Dakota, it empowers the forest service to immediately implement tools to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire, insect and disease infestation, and damage to municipal watersheds.

Another topic that should have some light shed upon it is the existence of the Humane Society. Many of you have seen the commercials, read the advertisements, and maybe have donated to the organization. Multiple times, I was informed on how only 1% of the 180 million dollars of donations actually go towards the humane treatment of animals, and that zero animal shelters are maintained across the United States by the organization. Many of those dollars are actually used to fight against Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and many other ethical organizations that not only promote sportsmen, but environmental conservation.

Which brings me to the most shocking news of all: the sportsmen population in the United States is declining. As a nation, younger generations are choosing to pursue different hobbies and interests. In South Dakota, we must work together to keep our conservation efforts strong—and promote public and private partnerships required to accomplish such a goal. I was very proud to attend this event being a native South Dakotan, and I want everyone to know, that this organization is thrilled to have us. We received a VERY warm welcome, as well as, a fetching plaque that I will present at our first meeting Jan. 12th 2016 at Red Rosa in Pierre. South Dakota has very strong roots when it comes to Hunting & Fishing, and every other state in the nation has recognized us for that.

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