COMMENTARY BY WEST VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR BILL HAMILTON
America’s hunters and anglers are our nation’s original conservationists, a title that we wear proudly. On Saturday, Sept. 26, West Virginia celebrates our nation’s 48th Annual National Hunting and Fishing Day, a day set aside to recognize and celebrate the historical and ongoing contributions of the Mountain State’s sportsmen and women. As Co-Chair of the West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and a member of the 49-state National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, I am proud to celebrate the time-honored traditions of hunting and angling, and I encourage all West Virginians to use National Hunting and Fishing Day to take advantage of the inherently socially distant activities of hunting and fishing that are available to us.
Hunters and anglers provide the foundation of conservation funding through the purchase of licenses, tags and stamps, and by paying self-imposed excise taxes on the equipment that we use. Adding these contributions together, hunters and anglers generated $25.35 million to fund the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources through the “user-pays, public-benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. This funding, in addition to the overall economic contributions of hunters, provides benefits for all West Virginians.
Equally as important, hunting and angling provide West Virginians an opportunity to explore the natural world around them while taking advantage of the many well-documented physical and mental health benefits associated with spending time outdoors. Through hunting and angling, one can truly appreciate the importance of conservation. This is why sportsmen and women dedicate much of their time and resources to improve conditions for fish and wildlife, which has ripple effects throughout the ecosystem and benefits all species and the people that enjoy them. Similarly, sportsmen and women are among the strongest supporters of legislation to increase public access opportunities for all Americans and provide additional funding for wildlife management.
There is perhaps no better example of this than the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. This historic piece of legislation fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund and appropriates $9.5 billion to take neglected infrastructure projects off the back burner, including $3 billion to support hunting, fishing and recreational shooting activities on federally owned public lands and waters. Thanks to a bipartisan effort in Congress and the support of sportsmen and women, the Great American Outdoors Act will ensure we are leaving our country in a better place for the next generation.
We hope that you will use National Hunting and Fishing Day to celebrate our time-honored traditions and perhaps introduce someone new to our outdoor pursuits so that they, too, can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of hunting and fishing. Given the renewed desire for safe outdoor recreational opportunities brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a growing desire among the populace for a self-sufficient lifestyle that includes food security, there is perhaps no better time to introduce beginners to the outdoors for the first time. Along the way, they will learn more about the natural world around them, procure organic, locally-sourced food for the entire family, and carry forward the proud conservation legacy of West Virginia’s original conservationists.