In many of my previous columns, I've written about as sportsmen and women how important it is for us to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters - simply referred to as R3 initiative.
Not only it is very important to West Virginia's hunting and fishing heritage and our people's culture, hunters pay a nice size chunk of the bill when it comes to wildlife conservation. Public lands, wildlife conservation and how the system works has been an interest of mine for years. As an active participant in wildlife conservation, not to mention I purchase many resident and several non-resident licenses annually, I am always curious to see and to learn more about how the system operates and more importantly how it wins.
Simply look no further than the wild turkey and the initiatives that allow me as a hunter today, to travel every spring across our country in pursuit of my favorite game bird. It has been stated by many that the single greatest success story in wildlife management in West Virginia has been the spectacular return of the wild turkey. West Virginia went from the near disappearance of the wild turkey in our state to all 55 counties now having a healthy population. How? By a successful turkey trap and transfer program started in 1950 which essentially moved turkeys form areas of the state that had a healthy population to areas of the state that had none. Thanks to our WVDNR biologists, the sportsmen and women who funded the program and supported it enthusiastically, WVDNR Law Enforcement Division and their officers who enforced laws and regulations to protect them, landowners and sportsmen who protected birds stocked into new range, and conservation organizations who provided additional funds to help the WVDNR Wildlife Division purchase equipment and supplies - all West Virginian's can now share in the success story. (In a future column, I'll expand on the 1950 Wild Turkey Initiative or for more information head over to WVDNR.gov)
To increase my knowledge and learning process, I am constantly scouring the news for victories and great stories about the R3 initiative. I recently read a bit of news from the National Wild Turkey Federation about the R3 initiative and I found it newsworthy and wished to share it with you.
The National Wild Turkey Federation is pleased with the recent introduction of S.B. 2092, the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow's Needs Act by senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Doug Jones, D-Ala.; Angus King, I-Maine; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; and James Risch, R-Idaho.
The Senate's legislation mirrors H.R. 877 - Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow's Needs Act, legislation introduced in the House earlier this year by Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga. The bipartisan bill is an important piece of legislation regarding the NWTF's R3 objective - Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation. The bill will allow state agencies to appropriate leftover conservation funds for marketing, community outreach programs, recreation and various other forms of public relations, aiming to increase interest in hunting and sport shooting.
"Participation in hunting and shooting sports helps to provide critical conservation funding to state fish and wildlife agencies," NWTF CEO Becky Humphries said. "Under this legislation, state agencies will have the increased ability to attract and retain new hunters and recreational shooters ensuring funding for conservation into the future."
The NWTF will continue to work with members of congress to move the bill toward approval. With the number of active hunters and recreational shooters on the decline, this legislation is crucial to our nation's hunting heritage.