10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Looking at the Capitol from a Tree Stand


The 2012 regular session of the legislature is well underway in Charleston. As usual there are several matters of interest to sportsman transformed from mere talk to ink on a paper.   Here are a few which have jumped out at me in recent weeks.

Jefferson County Delegate John Doyle has never been shy about his commitment to liberalism.   He proudly touts such an attitude.   This year however, Doyle has little to lose, since he’s not seeking reelection, although he’d probably have no problem backing a gun control bill even if he were planning to put himself before voters again this year.    Doyle introduced legislation aimed at limiting the purchase of handguns in West Virginia to two a month.  As you would imagine, that has drawn howls of protest.  It’s been introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee.  I doubt it will get anywhere–but you never know.  My gut tells me no lawmaker will want any part of dealing with a Second Amendment issue in West Virginia in an election year, especially those incumbents who will already be dealing with NRA enemy number one Barrack Obama atop their election ballot.   

Last week state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette sought funding from the legislature to pay for renovations and modernization at five of the state’s trout hatcheries.

"We stock fish in streams and lakes across West Virginia.  It’s a very popular program."  Burdette said. "Our hatcheries are deteriorating rapidly.  We would utilize these various line items of spending authority to make the first in a series of improvements to those hatcheries in order to maintain the program."

Many of the state’s trout hatcheries were built in the 20’s and 30’s, some of them by workers employed through the WPA.  Considering a lot of those who helped build the hatcheries have long since died, it’s easy to see where renovations are needed.   It remains to be seen how much general revenue funding, if any, lawmakers will be willing to put toward the plan.

DNR Director Frank Jezioro told the same committee last week after a month, sales of the now required Senior Lifetime Sportsman’s License have been brisk.  More than 400 have been sold.   Jezioro says about 85-percent of the first 200 sold were purchased by senior citizens who aren’t required to buy one.   Those who were age 65 before Jan. 1, 2012 are grandfathered (no pun intended) out of the requirement. Jezioro said their one-time purchase was in the interest of drawing down a greater share of federal excise tax money to West Virginia–already paid on the purchase of hunting and fishing gear. 

Finally, a bill which does appear to have support and creates a lot of controversy within the sportsman’s community would shift the oversight of deer farming in West Virginia from the DNR to the Department of Agriculture. 

There are fewer than 50 such operations in the state. However, they are well heeled with strong lobbying power and have a key inroad with a high number of legislators.  The group pushing the bill recently provided a lunch of farm raised venison to members of the legislature. 

Advocates tout the potential of high fence deer farming as a booming business to farmers in the state.  They believe the DNR has been over zealous in their attempt to regulate the industry and has handcuffed the ability for it to grow. 

Sportsman’s groups are again mounting a push to fight the change.   The DNR and those conservation organizations, fear left unchecked deer farming has the potential to create and spread disease which could threaten the state’s wild whitetail population. 

During an interim committee meeting ahead of the regular session, State Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass chided DNR Director Frank Jezioro the state would be better served if some of the genetics from farm raised deer were introduced to the state’s wild deer herd to improve antler development.    DNR Biologists say genetics are a distant third when it comes to growing a big rack on a buck.  They say age and nutrition are the most important factors. 

Deer farming advocates tout their herds are healthier than the state’s wild population because of controlled disease testing of all animals enclosed in high fencing.  The DNR points out to members of the committee considering the idea there is no way to do a test on live animals for the dreaded Chronic Wasting Disease infection.  

The debate hinges around a key consideration.  Will whitetails continue to be considered as "game" which would make them the property of the public or will certain ones be changed to "livestock" status–creating private ownership and thereby legalizing the sale of their meat to restaurants?    The deer farming organization often points to deer farming in neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania which they claim has become a major industry for those states.   However, precious little is mentioned about Virginia and other states where the practice has been banned altogether out of fear of disease spread.


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