N.Y. Legislature considers variety of outdoors bills
From ski helmets to hunting licenses, the state Assembly and Senate are looking at bills that may have an impact on the way people recreate throughout the Empire State.
Many of the bills in this session are geared toward hunting. Numerous bills concern hunting and fishing licenses, with two of them geared toward encouraging the outdoor pursuits, while the third would require some legislators to be hunters or fishermen themselves.
A few of the bills would have immediate impact locally, including S2923, which would eliminate the requirement that hunters wear back tags while hunting.
“Currently, back tags are not required to be worn while hunting in the Northern zone and Catskill Park in New York, which comprises almost 50 percent of New York’s land mass,” the justification for the bill reads. “This bill would simplify the existing regulations by eliminating confusion along the border areas of today’s back tag and no back tag areas. There are currently 48 other states that do not require the wearing of back tags.”
Bill S818 would offer free hunting licenses to those who become or are already hunting safety instructors, while bill S873 would offer a tax credit to veterans who purchase a state fishing or hunting license. S2166 would offer the same benefits to fire fighters and EMTs.
In seeming contrast to the above bills, S693 would require the state to consider the economic implications of offering free or reduced hunting and fishing licenses.
“There are a number of proposals to provide free or reduced-fee hunting and fishing licenses; however, the balance of the Conservation Fund has been declining. The purpose of this bill is to require the Department of Environmental Conservation, in consultation with the Conservation Fund Advisory Board, to review existing state policies regarding free or reduced-fee hunting and fishing license and submit findings to the Legislature,” the bills justification says.
Another bill related to the Environmental Conservation Fund is S4575.
“There is hereby created a special account within the conservation fund to be known as the state fish and game trust account to consist of all moneys received by the state from the sale of lifetime hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses, and lifetime archery and muzzle-loading privileges,” the summary of provisions says. This means that the state comptroller would be allowed to invest part of the fund in an effort to earn a better return on the money in the account.
Bill S3156 would lower the age of youth hunters from 14 to 12 years old, based on the premise that the younger a hunter is introduced to the sport, the greater the chance that that child will become a lifelong sportsman.
Another bill, S3327, would require members of the Environmental Conservation Committee to be license holders themselves, while S1386 would require the state to treat crossbows with the same regulations as long bows.
Bill S1040 would allow active members of the military to forgo hunting or fishing licenses. The text of this bill notes that active-duty members of the armed forces have limited time on leave, which is further limited by hunting and fishing regulations.
“This bill will allow these active service members, who are in the state for no longer than thirty days, to receive a free fishing, hunting or trapping license,” the justification for the bill reads. “Further, this bill provides our active service men and women with an opportunity to enjoy fishing in times when they are not stationed ready to defend our country.”
Bill S1153 would codify the right of New Yorkers to hunt and fish in the form of an amendment to the state constitution.
Ski areas throughout the state would be affected by Senate bill S1376, which, similar to New York’s bike helmet laws, would prohibit anyone age 14 or younger from skiing at a ski area without wearing a helmet.
This bill, sponsored by Betty Little, not only requires young skiers to wear helmets, but also requires ski areas to post signs about the law and keep on hand an adequate supply of helmets for rent and sale.
Little is also sponsoring Senate bill 390, which would stiffen penalties for guides who work under the influence of drugs and alcohol, as well as add kayaking to the list of guiding activities.
S856 would eliminate the requirement to register all-terrain vehicles when they are operated solely on land owned or leased by the vehicle owner, while S142, again, sponsored by Little, would amend the tax law to allow individuals to voluntarily contribute donations to a newly created parks and recreation fund. This is a two-part bill that would simultaneously allow the donations and create the fund.
This is not a complete list of bills that could affect the outdoors or the Adirondacks, but for more information on the above bills and their status in the legislature, go to www.nysenate.gov and use the search function at the top of the page.