Dec 08, 2011
Senate Holds Hearing on AB311
The Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee held a public hearing on December 7th to hear comment on AB 311 (also known as the Sporting Heritage Bill). As we’ve reported, this bill has the potential to negatively impact the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
Several individuals and organizations attended the hearing and testified about their concerns. Gathering Waters’ comments focused on the provisions in the legislation that would modify the Stewardship Program. In particular, the bill requires four out of seven NRB members to vote in favor of any prohibitions of nature-based outdoor activities (i.e., hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and cross country skiing). While this may sound reasonable, there could be unintended consequences. For instance, if any members of the NRB are absent from a meeting where a decision is made on a Stewardship project, then functionally a super-majority vote will be needed. Or, alternatively, if the NRB sets a policy that it will only approve Stewardship projects at meetings with all Board members present then projects could be delayed for weeks, if not months. A cleaner approach that would reduce the risk of losing important Stewardship projects would be to stick with current law, which requires a simple majority vote of those NRB members in attendance at monthly meetings.
We also continue to believe that AB311's requirement of an economic impact analysis on individual Stewardship projects would be unrealistic and unnecessary. The economic impact of the Stewardship Program should be carefully examined at the state and regional levels.
Several individuals and organizations also testified about proposed changes to the hunting and trapping policies for Wisconsin’s State Parks. A summary of this issue can be found in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from December 7th and from a November 6th column in the Wisconsin State Journal.
It is important to point out that the Committee did not vote on the bill or any amendments at the public hearing, so there is still time for you to contact your legislators with your concerns. There are several ways to determine which legislators represent you or your organization's service area including a statewide map of Senate Districts, inputting your address or municipality, or via a directory of Senate contact information.
We will continue to provide updates as we learn more about the timeline for AB 311 in the Senate.