From the mountains to the coast, the strong hunting and fishing heritage in North Carolina runs deep. It began for me when my stepfather took me out in the woods near Winston-Salem to squirrel hunt and fish for bluegill and largemouth bass. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to see God’s creations throughout my home state while trout fishing in the Blue Ridge Mountains, turkey hunting in the Piedmont, striper fishing on the Roanoke River, red drum fishing on the Pamlico Sound, quail hunting in the Sand Hills, and duck hunting on the Outer Banks.
I’m committed to passing along our fishing and hunting heritage to our next generation through conservation and wildlife restoration. Sportsmen and women are the backbone to conserving our lands and waterways. In 2016, 1.87 million people bought hunting and fishing licenses in North Carolina, generating $27.2 million in revenue for the state. This money is critical to maintaining our fish and wildlife agencies and all the conservation work they do.
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But what’s more important is federal legislation like the Pittman-Robertson Act (enacted in 1937) and Dingell-Johnson Act (enacted in 1950) that were spearheaded by sportsmen and women – both call for an excise tax on firearms, ammunition, fishing equipment, tackle and motorboat fuel. In 2016, these programs generated $29.1 million of revenue for North Carolina. Sportsmen and women are the primary funders of conservation through this “user-pays, public-benefits” approach known as the American System of Conservation Funding.
If it weren’t for hunters, anglers, recreational shooters and boaters – who would foot the bill?
That’s why last Monday I was thrilled to see a constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 677, introduced in the North Carolina Senate by Senators Danny Britt, Andrew Brock and Norman Sanderson to protect our right to hunt and fish. If passed, it would let voters in the November 2018 general election decide whether to amend the constitution to safeguard our right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife – something that 21 other states already guarantee in their constitutions.
Protecting our rights to hunt and fish through legislation is an important step towards passing our hunting and fishing heritage along to the next generation. We should feel obligated to leave the great outdoors for our grandchildren in better conditions than how we found them.
Another important bill under consideration is House Bill 559, “Outdoor Heritage Enhanced,” sponsored by Representative Chris Millis. HB 559 would increase access and opportunity for sportsmen and women by allowing Sunday hunting on North Carolina’s 2 million acres of Game Lands and removing other restrictions that limit the ability for hardworking families and youth to enjoy the great outdoors seven days a week. Removing barriers to participation in hunting is critical to recruiting, retaining and reactivating hunters for the preservation of our hunting heritage.
I encourage you to call your elected representatives to voice your support for the constitutional right to hunt and fish and expanded Sunday hunting opportunities because these bills will ensure a fish and wildlife legacy for our future generations.
Richard Childress is the chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing Enterprises and First Vice President of the National Rifle Association where he serves as chairman of the Hunting, Wildlife and Conservation Committee.