New GOP task force to meet with sportsmen

By Paula Piatt Associate Editor

Albany – They want to hear from you.

They want your ideas, your gripes and your praises.

They know the outdoorsmen and women can make a difference in the
outdoors of New York.

That’s why the newly formed Assembly Republican Task Force on
Hunting and Fishing will be taking to the road this year in a
series of public discussions.

“What are the issues and how might we be able to help them
through legislation?” asked Task Force Vice Chairperson Teresa
Sayward, R-113 “These are the people we need to be talking to, the
people in the sportsmen’s clubs, the hunters and the fishermen;
these are the people who are on the ground and know what’s going
on.”

Sayward, Task Force Chairman William Barclay, R-124, and another
dozen members will soon set up the meetings around the state.
Following the meetings, the task force will then begin to look at
what it can do – legislatively – to boost New York’s reputation as
a sportsmen’s paradise.

“We know there is a tremendous impact from the hunters and
fishermen who come to New York State,” said Sayward, pointing to
her own district of Essex, Warren and Hamilton counties as an
example. “It’s important not only because of the traditions that we
have in the Adirondacks, but for the number of visitors we get. In
my hometown of Willsboro, we get a lot of fishermen who want to
fish Lake Champlain and that’s very important to the town.”

And it’s important to the state. An estimated $2.1 billion is
spent annually by hunters and fishermen in New York.

Even without speaking to the outdoorsmen and women of the state,
Sayward says there are several things the task force would like to
accomplish, including an accurate count of the stat”s deer herd;
the possibilities of putting more conservation officers in the
field and lowering the minimum age for big game hunting.

“We haven’t had an accurate count of our deer herd in decades.
The only counts we get right now are ‘meat locker’ counts and they
aren’t particularly accurate,” she said, adding that a shortage of
field personnel has only added to the problems, especially when it
comes to nuisance permits. “In the past, they would go out and
check on the damage and tell how many nuisance permits were
needed.”

Sayward says more conservation officers in the field would make
a tremendous difference and would be willing to look at an increase
in license fees to pay for them, although no rate hike proposal has
yet been made.

“That’s one thing I am hearing, is that there aren’t enough
people in the field. There have been so many changes and the
officers just aren’t out like they used to be; to be able to
respond to things,” she said. “The DEC will be the first to tell
you that they just don’t have enough people.”

And, of course, lowering the age for big game hunting from 16 to
14 or even 12 would go a long way toward increasing hunter numbers;
the average age of a New York deer hunter is speeding toward
50.

For now, the Hunting and Fishing Task Force is strictly a
Republican endeavor – not that Sayward wouldn’t like to see her
colleagues on the other side of the aisle involved.

“I’m sure many of them would like to participate, but that has
to go through (Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-64). What will
probably happen is that we’ll both collect data and work from
there.”

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