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Delta Waterfowl Praises Maryland Assembly’s Passage of Pro-conservation Omnibus
Maryland House Bill 983 and Senate Bill 327 promise major investments in waterfowl conservation and enhanced access to quality hunting.
BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — Delta Waterfowl applauds the Maryland General Assembly for passing a bipartisan, bicameral, pro-hunting omnibus (Senate Bill 327/House Bill 983) late last week. The legislation will provide historic funding levels for vast conservation enhancements—including to habitats that attract and support migrating waterfowl—and improvements to infrastructures that provide access to quality waterfowl hunting.
The Duck Hunters Organization was joined by numerous conservation partners in supporting the legislation. Cyrus Baird, Delta’s senior director of government affairs, served as a key voice for duck hunters in Annapolis through written and oral testimony in both legislative chambers, and through strategic meetings with partners and lawmakers.
“This is a big win for hunting, conservation, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and it represents more than a year’s worth of input and effort on behalf of duck hunters,” Baird said. “This legislation will allow the DNR to take revolutionary steps to benefit ducks and duck hunters, including objectives it has had in mind for a long time but lacked the financial and staffing resources to make a reality.”
The law authorizes the Maryland DNR to increase license fees for resident hunters by $9.50 and for nonresidents by $20 to $30—the first such increases since 1989—while also raising the price of state migratory game bird stamps (a.k.a. state duck stamps) by $6.
“These modest price increases will allow the DNR to add roughly $2 million in funding each year, while also tapping into over $6 million in matching federal Pittman-Robertson funds—monies collected through taxes on firearms, ammunition and other sporting goods,” Baird said. “The funding will allow the DNR to better manage wildlife while providing additional access and opportunities for the sportsmen and women of Maryland. Additionally, increasing the price of the Maryland migratory game bird stamp will provide additional funding for critical waterfowl research and the enhancement of waterfowl habitats on public lands.”
Further, the law includes a robust R3 mechanism to enhance the state’s ability to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters. Most notably, the legislation establishes the Wildlife Conservation, Education, and Outreach Program, which will provide hunting and conservation education at the elementary and middle school levels in underserved and underrepresented communities. The law also allows non-resident hunters attending a college or university within Maryland to pay the resident rate.
“It’s one of the most comprehensive hunter recruitment bills ever written,” Baird said. “It codifies into law that Maryland will use some of the money to educate young people about hunting, including how to hunt as well as hunting’s critical role in conservation. The DNR will be able to reach kids who may like to give hunting a try but would otherwise have never been exposed to it or even decided to one day oppose hunting.”
Delta Waterfowl’s work in Maryland, however, remains incomplete. A key legislative priority originally contained in the omnibus—a provision of the legislation to open opportunities for waterfowl hunting on Sundays—was struck down during the latter stages of house proceedings.
“It’s disappointing because we came very close, but we’re not giving up,” Baird said. “Delta Waterfowl won’t stop fighting until Maryland waterfowlers can enjoy Sundays in the duck blind—something more than 70 percent of Maryland waterfowlers support.”
Delta Waterfowl would like to especially thank Delegate Nick Allen (D-District 8), Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-District 30), and Sen. Jack Bailey (R-District 29) for their leadership in support of waterfowl conservation and hunting in Maryland. Both bills will now cross over to their respective chambers before being presented to the to the governor for his signature.
Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and ensure the tradition of duck hunting in North America. Visit deltawaterfowl.org.
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