Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

March 31, 2012

Face spited! Nose gone!

2012 — There are pert near 6 million people who live in Maryland.

Each year, about 80,000 who are older than 15, but younger than 65 purchase what is called the Resident Regular Hunting License.

For about a couple decades, the cost of that piece of paper has been $24.50. It allows the buyer to hunt for animals such as squirrels, rabbits, grouse and turkeys. It also allows for the hunting of deer during the two-week firearms season.

All told, there are six months worth of hunting seasons in the state.

This past Monday, the Maryland House of Delegates, by a vote of 69-62, saved each of those hunters $15.50, by not allowing the Department of Natural Resources to begin charging $40 for the license.

Not only did the House kill bill 1419, but many delegates there rejoiced openly about it, according to a story by Marylandreporter.com.

Had the bill passed the House and then the Senate and been signed into law by the governor, it would have meant an additional $1,240,000 for the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service, an agency that is funded almost entirely by the sale of licenses.

That would have been a good thing because WHS is not only strapped, but operating in the hole, according to its director, Paul Peditto.

Eighty-thousand people out of 6 million. Fifteen dollars and fifty cents each.

The House Republican Caucus was so pumped about the outcome of the legislation that it sent out a news release. I think it is the first one I’ve ever seen from that august, minority body. The release was full of back slapping about how the defeat helps rural Marylanders who hunt to feed their families and could not deal with any more reaching by the state into their pockets.

If there was ever a hey-look-at-me-I’m-for-the-little-guy dog and pony show, this was it. The Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service was the whipping boy, taking the lashes for those who want to increase the gas tax, the flush tax and the income tax. The straw, the camel, the back.

Go to the General Assembly website, click on HB 1419 and watch the video of the Environmental Matters Committee hearing.

You will see Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, a Republican who represents Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, say he is concerned about the framing carpenter who is having trouble making his mortgage payment or dealing with a bank loan for his pickup truck.

“I’m talking about people who are not members of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation,” O’Donnell said, following up on his earlier comments that some hunters have the best gear, the best outfits and drink $10 shots of cognac in the evening after a hunt.

I’m sure many Maryland legislators who are members of the caucus/foundation of which O’Donnell speaks are well-heeled and have friends who are equally deep-pocketed.

However, the caucus/foundation has done many things for the little-guy hunter, the average-Joe shooter. In fact, because framing carpenters often work Monday through Saturday, the caucus/foundation has successfully supported legislation that allows for hunting on Sundays for deer and turkeys. Another batch of bills like that is in the hopper this session for various counties.

If the effort put into defeating HB 1419 were put into reducing the many other taxes that Marylanders face every day rather than saving 80,000 people $15.50 apiece, then we would really have something to slap each other’s backs about.

By the way, Delegates Kevin Kelly, Wendell Beitzel and LeRoy Myers voted to kill the license fee increase.

Beitzel’s vote interests me. Recently, the wildlife agency, because of pressure from Beitzel, changed the formula for issuing bear hunting permits so that residents of Garrett and Allegany counties would get more of them.

Yet when his vote was needed to help the agency it wasn’t there.

Anti-hunters likely broke out the good stuff when news reached them that HB 1419 was shot down, as so many headline writers seem to like to say.

If you wanted to kill wildlife management in a state, and thus scientifically based hunting, what better way is there than to make sure the agency involved doesn’t have enough money to study the animals for which it is responsible.

The Republicans, joined by some Democrats on Monday, made national news with this one.

Thing is, the wildlife agency needs the money. Really. No guff, as Jim Shockey would say.

Doing work that has become more expensive, but doing it on a flatline income has obvious consequences. Toss in the upcoming $1 million loss of federal funds out of the usual $4 million allocation from the Pittman-Robertson piggy bank and the rainbow doesn’t get any brighter.

Originally, the wildlife agency proposed a much larger increase, but backed off when the heat from the campfire got too hot. I agree with Peditto that the rank and file hunters were OK with the lesser increase, the additional $15.50. They just didn’t get back to their representatives again, the same representatives to whom they had complained about the initially proposed greater cost.

And, for anybody who ever complained that there are not enough Natural Resources Police officers out and about or that they don’t have the proper gear to do their jobs, some of the license fee increase would have been used to help that situation as well.

Maryland needs a statewide sportsmen’s federation to represent the state’s framing carpenters who hunt, according to Peditto, a federation that will go to bat for hunters at the legislative home plate.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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