Maryland House Bill 983 and Senate Bill 327 promise big investments in waterfowl conservation and better access to quality game.
BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — Delta Waterfowl applauds the Maryland General Assembly for passing a bipartisan, bicameral pro-hunting omnibus (Senate Bill 327/House Bill 983) late last week. The legislation will provide historic funding levels for extensive conservation improvements, including habitats that attract and support migratory waterfowl, and improvements to infrastructure that provide access to quality waterfowl hunting.
Numerous conservation partners joined the Duck Hunters’ Organization in supporting the legislation. Cyrus Baird, Delta’s senior director of government affairs, served as a key voice for duck hunters in Annapolis through written and oral testimony in both Houses of Congress and through strategic meetings with partners and legislators.
“This is a huge victory for hunting, conservation and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and represents more than a year of input and efforts on behalf of duck hunters,” Baird said. “This legislation will allow the DNR to take revolutionary steps to benefit ducks and duck hunters, including goals that it has long had in mind but lacked the financial and personnel resources to make them a reality.”
The law authorizes the Maryland DNR to increase license fees for resident hunters by $9.50 and for nonresidents by $20 to $30, the first such increases since 1989, while increasing the price of state stamps for migratory game birds (also known as state duck stamps) at $6.
“These modest price increases will allow the DNR to add approximately $2 million in funding each year, while also leveraging more than $6 million in federal matching funds from Pittman-Robertson, money raised through taxes on firearms, ammunition and other sporting goods,” Baird said. . “The funds will allow the DNR to better manage wildlife while providing additional access and opportunities for Maryland athletes. Additionally, increasing the price of the Maryland migratory gamebird stamp will provide additional funding for critical waterfowl research and enhancement of waterfowl habitats on public lands.”
In addition, the law includes a robust R3 mechanism to improve the state’s ability to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters. In particular, the legislation establishes the Wildlife Conservation, Education and Outreach Program, which will provide hunting and conservation education at the elementary and secondary school levels in underserved and underrepresented communities. The law also allows non-resident hunters attending a college or university within Maryland to pay the resident fee.
“It’s one of the most comprehensive hunter recruiting bills ever written,” Baird said. “It codifies into law that Maryland will use part of the money to educate youth about hunting, including how to hunt and the critical role of hunting in conservation. DNR will be able to reach children who would like to try hunting, but who otherwise would never have been exposed to or even decided one day to oppose hunting.”
However, the Delta Waterfowl work in Maryland remains incomplete. A key legislative priority originally contained in the omnibus, a provision of the legislation to open up opportunities for waterfowl hunting on Sundays, was struck down during the latter stages of the house proceedings.
“It’s disappointing because we came so close, but we’re not going to give up,” Baird said. “Delta Waterfowl will not stop fighting until Maryland waterfowl hunters can enjoy Sundays in the shade of the ducks, something that more than 70 percent of Maryland waterfowl hunters support.”
Delta Waterfowl would like to especially thank Delegate Nick Allen (D-District 8), Senator Sarah Elfreth (D-District 30) and Senator Jack Bailey (R-District 29) for their leadership in supporting waterfowl hunting and conservation. in maryland. Both bills will now move to their respective chambers before being presented to the governor for his signature.
Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to raise ducks and ensure the tradition of duck hunting in North America. Visit deltawaterfowl.org.