December 8, 2004, 12:30 AM
Hunting and Fishing Industries Gain Political Clout . . . While you're preparing for the holidays, state lawmakers are preparing for legislative sessions that kick off in the first weeks of the new year. More frequently, they're hearing from lobbyists who want to ban hunting, create new impediments or restrict access to hunting areas and restrict firearm ownership. Last year, 2,800 bills were introduced in state capitals to impact sportsmen, an increase of 50 percent over the previous year. But there's a plan in place to protect your enjoyment of the great American outdoors. Led by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and supported by industry, conservation organizations and sportsmen's rights groups, lawmakers in 21 states have already formed sportsmen's caucuses to work together in the protection of hunting and fishing and to represent sportsmen on environmental and conservation issues involving wildlife. Last weekend in Texas, at the first annual National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses, the formation of at least four more state caucuses was announced along with creation of a Web site at http://www.statesportsmenslink.org/ to better communicate and coordinate efforts state by state. Caucus efforts recently passed a state constitutional amendment protecting hunting, fishing and trapping in Louisiana, established mourning dove seasons in Michigan and Minnesota, and passed measures to register sportsmen to vote in Georgia and to insure no-net-loss of hunting public lands in Illinois.