Interim meetings will once again be happening this week but I wanted to relay some information I found out during the July Interim meetings.
Members of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Subcommittee heard a report from the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Director, Frank Jeziro stating that with the trends of leasing large tracts of private lands to members only hunting clubs, finding suitable public places to hunt is becoming harder and harder.
Joined by the DNR’s wildlife chief, Curtis Taylor, Director Jeziro and committee members discussed Senate Concurrent Resolution 60, which directed a study of how to open up more land to hunting and other outdoor pursuits.
One idea the DNR suggested some years ago was to provide tax incentives to holders of big tracts, but it failed to attract support in the Legislature. With that failing, they contacted the various Convention and Visitors Bureaus at a state conference and learned of complaints about deer munching away on bushes and causing crop damage. So what has happened, he stated, is the companies that own these large tracts of land are finding it easier to lease lands to private hunting clubs. And it’s not just in West Virginia but around the country that this practice is occurring.
In his research, he contacted two different coal firms who told him that the companies didn’t think the DNR could meet its asking price and they would rather lease it to 50 people, rather than have 500 or 1,000 people using that land.
Committee members were told that some firms are leasing land to specific hunting seasons, deer and bear, for instance, then turning around in January and February, and renting it to grouse and rabbit hunting.
As House Chairman of the Agriculture Committee and Interim Agriculture and Rural Development Committee I have interest in this issue and believe it is the obligation of the DNR and state leaders to see that each hunting generation has the same opportunity as previous generations.
Curtis Taylor stated in relation to hunting lands that the efforts to find more places for the general public doesn’t mean some sizable acreage isn’t open now. He said the DNR has 15,000 acres available in McDowell County, around 17,000 in Wyoming, 40,000 in Wayne, and 13,000 acres in Mingo. He also said that there is currently no way to know how many private clubs exist in the state, since they aren’t required to register.
This is an issue I will keep a close eye on as I am a big supporter of our states hunters and outdoor recreation enthusiasts and want to preserve the great traditions that make West Virginia so Wild and Wonderful.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues or bills before the legislature please feel free to contact me. To write me, my address is Delegate David Walker, State Capitol, Building 1, Room 203-E, Charleston, WV 25305. Or you may call me at (304) 340-3135. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process.