HD31 - Report of Better Communication and Opportunities for Public Participation During the Hunting and Trapping Regulatory Process

Executive Summary:
House Joint Resolution No. 231 of the 2008 Session of the Virginia General Assembly requested the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to provide better communication and opportunities for public participation when proposing or changing regulations. Specifically, the Board and Department were requested to take steps to ensure that their interactions with hunters’ and sportsmen’s organizations are timely and responsive.

Following passage of HJ 231 by the 2008 Session of the General Assembly, the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, at its meeting on April 1, 2008, took action to implement a change in the Department’s regulatory process by separating hunting and trapping regulations from the other regulations (boating, fishing, and wildlife diversity) under the purview of the agency. At its meeting on June 3, 2008, the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries approved the 2008 - 2009 Hunting and Trapping Periodic Regulation Review and Amendment Process. This process included the following key elements for public comment and input: three (3) meetings of the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, two (2) public comment/discussion periods with each period being about two (2) months in duration, and two (2) series of public meetings across the state.

Concurrent with the Department’s change in the Hunting and Trapping Periodic Regulation Review and Amendment Process, the agency was also conducting the Hunting with Hounds Study, in conjunction with researchers from Virginia Tech. A major part of this study was the work of an 18-citizen member Stakeholder Advisory Committee. This committee represented the many values of Virginia’s citizens interested in hunting with hounds and met several times to learn about the issues, understand the various viewpoints, and consider alternative strategies for addressing the issues identified by the focus groups and through public input. During the study’s public comment period, the Department and Virginia Tech received over 2,000 written comments from concerned members of the public. In addition, 2,043 people attended 7 public meetings held at various locations throughout the state. At those meetings, 244 comments were made. At its meeting on October 23, 2008, the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries received the study report from the Virginia Tech researchers; the report detailed eleven (11) strategies developed by the Stakeholder Advisory Committee. These strategies have been categorized into administrative, regulatory, or legislative and it is the agency’s intent to incorporate the regulatory strategies into the current regulatory review process and to work with the Secretary of Natural Resources, the House and Senate Natural Resource Committees, and the Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus on the strategies that require legislative action.