The Outdoor Heritage Act – S437 “An Act Relative to Outdoor Heritage”

The entire Commonwealth benefits from the support of those who ask for so little, but give so much – Hunters!

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S.437 Outdoor Heritage Act Summary

ATV Firearm Transportation (Section 1) MGL C 90B, S 26 – The current ATV laws under Chapter 90B require that any gun be unloaded and enclosed in a case. Because this law does not appear in the hunting laws in Chapter 131 or the firearm laws in Chapters 140/269 many hunters and gun owners who utilize recreational vehicles are not aware of the restrictive requirements. There is also no exemption for lawful citizens who ride these vehicles and carry firearms for self-defense reasons.

The new proposed language in Section 1 repeals the “cased gun” requirements as it serves no public safety purpose. It also provides rightful exemptions for carrying loaded firearms for law enforcement, hunters with certain mobility issues and persons licensed to carry for defensive reasons.

Sunday Hunting (Section 2) MGL C 131, S 4 – Though Massachusetts hunters pay for the vast majority of professional wildlife and habitat management in the Commonwealth, they are prohibited from participating in their specific form of recreation on Sundays. Originally the law was simply based on old standards of virtually everything being closed on Sundays. Today it is one of a few “blue laws” left on the books and has more to do with social bias than legitimate safety concerns. This language repeals the discriminatory restrictions on lawful hunters and allows the professionals at the Division Of Fisheries and Wildlife to regulate the use of hunting throughout the week as warranted.

Hunter Harassment (Section 3) MGL C 131, S 5C – The laws establishing punishments for harassing lawful hunters were established in 1991. The initial law was to punish those who took to generally disrupting hunting by means of annoyance. Recently those who have a bias against the outdoor community are becoming more brazen and even dangerous. Reports of property damage, dangerous sabotage of tree stands and more have resulted in hunter endangerment. The current laws need to be drastically updated to reflect the current danger to persons and property. This language upgrades the laws and punishments to reflect the severity of the crimes being committed.

Bear Hunting (Section 4) MGL C 131, S 21A – Since the passage of Question 1 in 1996 certain wildlife populations have increased dramatically due to the emotionally charged banning of effective management tools. One of those species is the black bear. This is caused in part because the species adapts very well to our suburban settings. It is also caused in part because the use of bait and dogs were banned under Question 1 (1996). As this species encroaches on more urban areas it will become crucial to manage the population through safe and proven methods.

One such method that will be vital is baiting. Hunting over bait in more heavily human populated areas will allow the hunter to put the animal in exactly the place needed for a safe and successful harvest. This language would strike the statutory prohibition on baiting bear and allow wildlife professionals within the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to regulate its use as needed. It is imperative that we proactively manage the species in order to prevent it from becoming an unwanted pest like the beaver, another victim of Question 1.

Hunting With Crossbows (Sections 5, 6 & 10) MGL C 131, S 64, MGL C 131, S 69 – Hunting with crossbows is now legal in 36 states across the nation. Most other states allow their use under various restrictions such as age or medical reasons. Only one state, Oregon, bans them. Massachusetts currently restricts crossbow use to those who have a medical disability that prevents them from using traditional archery equipment such as re-curve or compound bows. The Massachusetts hunting community has long supported the removal of the general prohibition on crossbows. The language would allow the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to regulate crossbows as they would any archery equipment.

Hunting Ammunition (Section 7 & 8) MGL C 131, S 66 – This language strikes the confusing current law dealing with hunting ammunition restrictions and replaces it with simplified language that allows the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to regulate as needed. This also prevents the need for constant law changes as ammunition technology changes far more rapidly than legislation typically does.

Coyote Hunting (Section 9) MGL C 131, S 68 – Currently Section 68 allows for the use of artificial lights to hunt raccoon or opossum at night as those species are more active during that time. Coyotes are also more likely to be active at night and are presenting a relatively new management challenge for Massachusetts. The size of the animal and abundance of them as drastically increased over just a few decades.

Using Dogs for Waterfowl Retrieval (Section 10) MGL Chapter 131, Section 70 – Under current law there is a statutory prohibition for the use of dogs during the modern gun season for deer. There is one exemption for waterfowl hunter in the coastal zone only. The coastal zone is actually a very narrow strip of management area (Blue and Red). This language would remove the statutory prohibitions and allow the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to regulate the use of dogs for upland and waterfowl hunting should the seasons overlap.

Moose Hunting (Section 12) – Through successful wildlife and habitat management, the moose population has grown within the Commonwealth. Currently moose are periodically being relocated which means that a sustainable number of wild moose will eventually call for managing their numbers through hunting. Removing the statutory restriction on hunting this species would provide food for families and more financial resources for professional wildlife management.

Cased Firearms (Section 13) MGL C 269, S 12D – Currently Massachusetts law requires that gun owners cannot be on a public way in possession of a rifle or shotgun that that is not unloaded and enclosed in a case. The law serves no public safety purpose and is a very troublesome law for hunters that are not aware of the requirement. There is currently an exemption in 12D “(iv) a person who is lawfully engaged in hunting and is the holder of a valid hunting or sporting license issued pursuant to chapter 131.” However, Section 58 of Chapter 131 effectively bans hunting on, or within 150 feet, of a “state or hard surfaced highway”. There also has never been a clarification of what a “case” would be.

How Do Sportsmen and Women Support
Wildlife Management & Open Space in Massachusetts?

Current Annual Investment for Massachusetts Hunters

Wildlife Restoration Act
The Wildlife Restoration Act (WR), commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson (PR) Act, was sponsored by Senator Key Pittman of Nevada and Representative Willis Robertson of Virginia and was passed in 1937. The Wildlife Restoration Act provides grant funds to states that have passed assent legislation. This means state legislation must be in effect and remain in effect restricting the use of revenue from license fees for use only by fish and wildlife agency. Current revenues are derived through federal excise taxes at the point of manufacturing at the following rates:
11% on Firearms and Ammunition
10% on Handguns
11% on Archery Equipment

Current Massachusetts Annual Share: Approximately $7,600,000

Wildlands Conservation Stamp

Commonly known to the sporting community as the “Land Stamp”, this program was established through the passage of legislation in 1990. Sportsmen and women selflessly launched an effort to create a program to perpetually raise funds for the purchase of open space. The law created a $5.00 wildlands conservation stamp to be added to all purchases of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. Lands purchased with these funds protect and enhance habitat for a great diversity of wildlife, both game and non-game as well as endangered species. Since the program was established these funds have helped protect over 200,000 acres.

Current Massachusetts Annual Expenditure: $1,500,000

Inland Fisheries and Game Fund

According to legislative records, this fund was established in 1967 to protect fees gathered from the sale of fishing, hunting and trapping license sales. In keeping with the rules established under federal guidelines for eligibility under the Wildlife Conservation Act, all of these fees must be protected in a dedicated fund. These funds cannot be expended for general purposes, but must be used only for matters regarding fish and wildlife management.

Current Annual License Sale Income: $5,200,000

Other Wildlife Management Funding Sources:

Massachusetts Waterfowl Stamp: $5.00
Massachusetts Archery Hunting Stamp: $5.10
Massachusetts Primitive Firearms Stamp: $5.10
Massachusetts Wild Turkey Permit: $5.00
Massachusetts Black bear Permit: $5.00
Massachusetts Antlerless Deer Permit: $5.00

Current Annual Stamp Sale Income: $1,400,000

These figures do not include the positive impact hunting has on the Commonwealth’s overall economy:

• Small and large business employees;
• Sales Tax Revenue on Millions of Dollars of outdoor gear;
• Lodging, gas, food, etc.

Click here to view the bill language.

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