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NEWS &VIEWS You Can Use What happened in Annapolis?


T e 434th session of the Maryland General Assembly adjourned Monday, April 7, 2014. During the 90 day session, 2,672 bills were introduced and 811 were passed. T e Governor has begun signing bills into law. One of the core missions of the Maryland Horse Council is to represent the interests of the equestrian community to the legislators. When fi nances allow, MHC retains the assistance of a lobbyist, although most of the legislative eff orts put forth by the Council are grassroots-driven. T is year, MHC hired well- known lobbyist Frank Boston. T e Maryland Horse Council fought a long and valiant battle to preserve Safe Sundays for riders and others to enjoy time in the outdoors on Sundays during hunting season without fear of accidental adverse encounters with hunters. MHC testifi ed against a number of Sunday hunting bills, but also testifi ed in support of a bill that would train hunters in certain southern counties. In addition to an aggressive battle against expanded Sunday deer hunting, MHC also testifi ed in support of bills to extend the life of the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB), in support of harness racing organization funding, and in support of a bill that could potentially increase opportunities for composting horse manure.


MHC submitted testimony in


opposition to several bills relating to liability for dog bites, and submitted comments on the Maryland Department of the Environment’s proposal governing Erosion and Sediment Control Plans and Stormwater Management Plans, and their proposed regulations governing composting facilities.


Sunday Hunting Battles Won & Lost T e Maryland Horse Council has worked alongside other organizations representing outdoor recreation interests to block the expansion of Sunday hunting in Maryland. Senators and delegates listened at hearing after hearing as MHC members and allies–including avid deer hunters–testifi ed in support of one day each week from October into January set aside for other recreational users (hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, equestrians, and others) to have safe access to all lands, public and private. Despite MHC’s support for hunting in


general, for decreasing the deer population specifi cally,


despite MHC’s testimony


supporting increased training opportunities for sharpshooters for managed hunts, despite the fact that many of the MHC members testifying against expanded Sunday deer hunting were gun hunters themselves, MHC was repeatedly vilifi ed in the general media for secretly being “anti-hunting.” Anne Arundel County farm owners Steuart


Pittman and Christy Clagett (who is also a joint Master for the Marlborough Hounds) were successful in recruiting scores of local horse people to testify against Sunday Hunting, creating a very strong grassroots movement in Anne Arundel, with a ripple eff ect throughout Southern Maryland, all of which helped to defeat attempts to expand Sunday deer hunting in those parts of Maryland. Unfortunately, the bills to expand Sunday


hunting in Western Maryland proved harder to defeat, despite the yeoman eff ort made by Boonsboro farm owner, foxhunter and deer hunter, Joe Michael, who made the long wintry drive from western Maryland on several occasions to add his voice and credibility to oppose Sunday hunting. But it was a lonely position, as there did not seem to be as many horsemen from western Maryland willing to make the drive or ally opposition as were the horsemen in Southern Maryland. SB 472/HB 406 and SB 473/HB 432 allow DNR to authorize Sunday hunting in Frederick, Allegany, Washington, and Garrett counties, one for just deer and the other for all species. Unfortunately, now it seems that residents of these counties are beginning to realize what it will mean for their 2014-2015 outdoor calendars.


MHC Requests O’Malley To Veto T e Maryland Horse Council requested that the Governor veto the legislation, based on the premise that, “Since 98% of Marylanders do not hunt, Sunday hunting should not be permitted unless it can be defi nitively shown that it is a critically essential tool for managing wildlife, and that no other method that preserves safe Sundays is eff ective.” If the Governor is not willing to veto the legislation, then MHC is asking that the legislation be delayed until after publication of the requested study on the 2014 deer population management control measures has been completed. Meanwhile, other outdoor groups are


beginning to realize the full impact of ten years of expanded Sunday hunting on their respective sports, and that the original premise of “only one Sunday” or “only two Sundays” has been steadily expanding to all Sundays in the fall and winter. T e Maryland Ornithological Society started a online petition to encourage the Governor to veto the bill. Conservation Chair Kurt Schwartz explained the position of the MOS: “T e Maryland Ornithological Society (MOS) is a statewide nonprofi t voluntary organization of about 1,600 members, dedicated to the study and preservation of birds. We heartily agree that the white-tailed deer population needs to be controlled. However, in the interests of balance, it is our position that the rest of the outdoor public, such as bird watchers, hikers, horseback riders,


runners, etc., deserve one


day a week to enjoy the outdoors on public lands, without the noise and potential risks associated with hunting. Hunters are vital to habitat preservation and fund much of habitat acquisition, but they have six days out of seven to pursue their avocation. One of our chapters, the Frederick Bird Club, holds its Fall Count on Sundays, just so it can avoid hunting, and safely access Wildlife Management Areas.”


Onward and Upward However disappointing the legislative losses


were in western Maryland, there were some encouraging milestones in other arenas.


In


March, representatives of MHC met with DNR Secretary Joe Gill, DNR Legislative Director Rich Norling and Governor O’Malley’s Assistant Chief of Staff Ashley Valis. Representing the interests of the equestrian community were former MHC president Steuart Pittman, Christy Clagett, former MHC treasurer Royce Herman (also a licensed fi rearms instructor), Ed Fry (large Eastern Shore crop farmer, 2013 Maryland Farmer of the Year, horseman and the Master of the Flint Hill Hounds, a private pack), and Equiery publisher Crystal Kimball. T e MHC representatives discussed the seeming incongruities of DNR’s position: on the one hand, lobbying the legislature that more hunting days are necessary in order to reduce the deer population, and on the other, DNR’s regulator proposals designed to increase the deer herd and DNR’s opposition to a bill that would have trained more sharpshooters for


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Be sure to include your full name, phone number and address. All submissions become the property of The Equiery. 8 | THE EQUIERY | MAY 2014 800-244-9580 | www.equiery.com


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