The Horse Council has been very busy during this legislative session, with the extraordinary assistance of our new lobbyist, Frank Boston. Our efforts have been primarily focused on trying to prevent the expansion of Sunday hunting. These "Sunday Hunting" bills are usually introduced county-by-county, and they are often "courtesy bills," introduced by the "County Delegation," i.e., all the legislators from the particular county. This means they are very difficult to successfully oppose. The session is not yet over, but we are fairly confident that we have succeeded in Anne Arundel and Harford. Still in play are Calvert, where we are reasonably optimistic, and Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington, where a favorable outcome is much more in doubt.
Here is the testimony submitted today for the House Environmental Matters Committee hearing on the western counties bills:
Testimony of the Maryland Horse Council before the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee in Opposition to SB 472 and SB 473, Sunday Hunting in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington Counties
April 2, 2014
The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) strongly reiterates its opposition to expanding Sunday hunting in Maryland, for the reasons expressed in our testimony before this Committee on related Sunday hunting bills.
Sunday hunting has not been proven to be significantly effective in managing the deer population. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has agreed to conduct a study this year of the effectiveness of Sunday hunting as a tool of deer population control and its effect on other users of outdoor recreation. Sunday hunting should not be further expanded until DNR has completed this study.
These bills that purport to expand the opportunities to hunt deer are counter to DNR's own statement that it needs to increase the deer population in Region A (Allegany, Garrett and part of Washington Counties). [DNR 2014-2016 Regulation Concepts, February 19, 2014]
Given the undue burden on the 98% of Marylanders who do not hunt, these bills should not be enacted unless it can be definitively shown that Sunday hunting is a critically essential tool for managing wildlife, and that no other method that preserves safe Sundays is effective.
MHC urges the Committee to report these bills unfavorably, and give all the various stakeholders (hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, bird watchers, equestrians, etc., as well as hunters and farmers) the chance to work out a global solution to the deer management problem that really works, while preserving safe Sundays.