It seems that the furor over HB2072 is drawing to close. If there is one thing everyone can agree on it is that, well-meaning or not, this bill was not presented well (or at all) to Arizona sportsmen. You can read the original post here: HB 2072.

Today I received this Press Release from Representative Jerry Weiers:

HB 2072
SALE OF BIG GAME TAGS

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX (January 17, 2012) – In a well intentioned effort to preserve the future of big game sport hunting in the state of Arizona, I worked with my colleagues and constituents and Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife by sponsoring HB 2072. I did so not only out of a sense of duty to promote the natural health of our state’s wildlife but also to guarantee the future of big game hunting for generations of hunters to come whom, like myself, want nothing more than to responsibly join in this rich and deeply rooted tradition.

The conservationists and hunting/angling sportsmen and sportswomen whom were supporting this bill met with me last week. After meeting with them I decided that this legislation would not be received favorably by the hunting sportsmen and sportswomen of our state. And for this reason I ultimately decided that the bill in its present form will not move forward.

It is most unfortunate that Arizona’s sportsmen, including members of some of Arizona’s foremost wildlife conservation groups, have no concept as to how HB 2072 would benefit the state of Arizona, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, wildlife and wildlife habitat, Arizona’s youth, landowners and sportsmen.

The State would benefit by increasing tourism and providing a $25.4 Million annual boost in economic activity for the state – $4 Million of which would benefit our rural counties; raise an additional $2.2 Million in new tax collections for state and local governments; and $10.2 million additional income for Arizona households.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department would benefit by increasing hunting and fishing license revenues to the state by approximately $900,000 and providing additional sources of revenue to augment three critical problem areas identified in the Department’s Five-Year Strategic Plan. From 1996 to 2006 (according to a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Report) the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold by the Department decreased by 98,000 combined despite the fact that Arizona’s population grew substantially.

Arizona’s wildlife would benefit by providing approximately $1 Million for wildlife habitat enhancement and increasing big game wildlife populations. The Department has insufficient revenues to fund the many habitat enhancement projects currently on the list and Arizona’s big game wildlife herds, except for elk, are either decreasing in size or are staying relatively flat despite the annual infusion of $90 to $100 Million annually in Department spending. For example total deer permits issued have dropped from a high of 92,545 permits in 1984 to a low of 36,665 permits in 2004. In 2010 43,993 total deer permits were issued. Mule deer herd sizes have suffered the most as demonstrated in the Department’s harvest report which shows that harvested mule deer numbers decreased from a high of 19,454 in 1986 to a low of 3,753 in 2003. A total of 4,818 mule deer were harvested in 2010.

Arizona’s youth would benefit by providing approximately $750,000 to introduce the youth to replace hunters and anglers leaving the sport. As of the most recent U. S. Fish and Wildlife published in 2006 68% of the hunters and anglers are 35 years of age and older while 32% are 35 years of age and under.

Arizona Landowners and Sportsmen would benefit by providing approximately $750,000 to $1 Million in new revenue to augment the Department’s landowner access program. Landowners are closing access, in large part because of the cost incurred to accommodate public access and damage done to private lands by irresponsible sportsmen, access across private land to public lands is continuing to diminish, thus leaving hundreds of thousands of acres unavailable to the sportsmen to hunt and fish.

The situation that helped me decide to not move forward with the legislation is one in which I found myself determined to avoid the breakdown of a currently unified front of hunting constituents and enthusiasts though holding the bill may not accomplish that objective. I know that we cannot afford to divide this extremely important union of conservationists that have been, for the most part, our most staunch allies in the face of threats against the rights of Arizona’s hunters and anglers starting with the initiative that ended the ability to trap on public lands.

I feel we, the sportsmen and women of Arizona, have a mutual admiration for the wildlife of our state and the rights of Arizona’s hunters and anglers to join in its bounty. I can only hope that conservation organizations and the average sportsmen will try to understand the bigger picture and the benefits of HB 2072, support this or a similar concept and not allow those who would oppose us to divide and conquer and further destroy our right to hunt and fish.

I will continue to work in earnest to make sure that the sport of big game hunting and angling will be available for many generations to come. I encourage those of you who were concerned only about getting a tag to rethink your position. HB 2072 offered a unique and innovative way to help offset the current trend of problems that, if allowed to continue, will only continue to deplete our big game herds and limit fishing opportunities, thus reducing our hunting and fishing opportunities in the future.

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