Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Schumer bill a push for additional hunting land

Washington – It’s not often that the federal government seeks to
aid New York’s whitetail hunters.

But U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced a bill last
month he hopes will help not only hunters but farmers whose crops
are being damaged by deer overpopulation.

Schumer has asked the federal government to set aside as much as
$20 million that would be used to open up more land for hunting,
fishing, bird watching and other wildlife-based recreation by
paying farmers to allow access to their land.

It would help hunters address a burgeoning deer problem in some
parts of the state, and also supply farmers with an infusion of
cash, Schumer said.

And it would also address the issue of more people posting their
land, with as much as 85 percent of New York’s land under private
ownership.

Schumer called the proposal a “win-win” earlier this month when
announcing it.

“Not only will it deliver funding too our hard-working farmers,
it also keeps the swelling deer population under control so it no
longer decimates millions of dollars in crops every year,” Schumer
said in a news release.

The money was included in the U.S. Senate’s version of the Farm
Bill, which was still up for debate as of press time. Funds set
aside in the Farm Bill are typically highly sought after and hotly
contested in both houses of Congress.

Harold Palmer, president of the New York State Conservation
Council, said council members met with Schumer several years ago to
push the bill, which didn’t get through at the time.

Council members, though, had concerns with Schumer’s frequent
anti-gun stances.

“He’s fighting to do something to help hunters, but doesn’t want
us to have guns,” Palmer said. “But if he can give the states money
to get people to open up land, that’d be great.”

Palmer said an alternative might be a voucher system similar to
those used in the Midwest, where farmers are paid for each hunter
they allow on their property.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation was analyzing
the bill earlier this month and had not taken a position on it in
the days after Schumer introduced it, said DEC spokeswoman Maureen
Wren.

But she said the agency is generally in favor of any measure
that would allow hunters, anglers and others more
opportunities.

She pointed out Gov. Eliot Spitzer has also been seeking ways to
gain more access for sportsmen and women, such as supporting
“landowner liability” legislation that would make it easier for
property owners to allow others to use their land and expanding the
returnable bottle program to create new fishing sites and boat
launches.

Schumer said in a news release that could also provide an
economic boost by encouraging more people to enjoy their
sports.

It also could help lessen the problem of deer damage to tree
fruit, berry and grain crops that Schumer said farmers spent $144
million to try to prevent, according to a 2002 Cornell University
study.

Deer annually cause tens of millions of dollars in damage to
crops, with the western part of the state alone seeing just under
$20 million worth of damage last year.

In the Hudson Valley, Schumer estimated deer cause $14.58
million dollars in damage to crops annually, while the Southern
Tier sustained $7.52 million and central New York $7.41 million,
according to Schumer’s news release.

Not everyone was completely sold on the idea, however.

Fred Hudson, a former farmer from Camillus who works as a real
estate appraiser specializing in agricultural land, said the
proposal “didn’t make any sense at all” because farmers already
know how to handle nuisance wildlife. He said it seemed like a ploy
by Schumer to get publicity.

“I don’t think Chuck Schumer talked to commercial farmers at all
about this issue, because if he did they would tell him ‘We don’t
want the liability of people hunting on our land’ and ‘We certainly
can take care of it ourselves with DEC permits if it’s really that
bad,’” Hudson said.

Hudson said deer damage to crops is generally “minimal” and
insurance generally covers animal damage.

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