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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SB868 Tabled in House Agriculture Today

SB868, Senator Richard Stuart's bill that would have changed the procedures for lawfully killing deer, bear, and elk that cause damage to crops, was tabled in committee this morning.  Thanks to all of the sportsmen who contacted committee members and voiced your opposition to this bill.  Your contact led the committee to determine that the bill needed more work and was not ready for consideration.

Under the bill, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries would have been required to issue kill permits for one year to landowners claiming wildlife crop damage without any investigation of the claim.

Current law requires the Department to investigate claims of agricultural damage before damage permits can be issued.  Only after finding the damage was actually caused by a deer or bear can the Department allow the removal of the problem deer and bear.   Additionally, in current law only deer and bear are subject to damage permits.  This bill would have also allowed the state’s limited elk population to be included in the damage permits.

A coalition of sportsmen’s and conservation organizations including VSSA, the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Wild Turkey Federation, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Rifle Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and others all pushed to stop the bill.

There is no question that farmers experience crop damage from growing wildlife populations.  However, there are other ways that are more in line with responsible wildlife management to deal with this issue than the remedies sought in SB868.  Hopefully in the future, sportsmen and farmers (many of whom are also sportsmen) can come together to deal with this issue in a way that protects the livelihood of farmers and continues the responsible management of wildlife.

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