Texas Raffle Laws & Non-Profit Organizations
Non-profit organizations in Texas are currently not allowed to sell raffle tickets online. HSC has been involved in the effort to allow Texas-based non-profit organizations to market and sell raffle tickets online, for the past three Texas legislative sessions. A House bill was approved earlier this year. HSC provided testimony in favor of the bill before the Texas House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee in March. A Senate bill, mirroring the House bill language, is in process. If passed, these changes would allow for fundraising related to raffles on a greater scale. Reach out to your local Representative and let them know you support HB 2138 and your Senator, in support of SB 1582.
New York Big 5 Act
The state of New York is once again attempting to ban the import of legally and ethically hunted game animals. The “Big Five African Trophies Act” to ban the importation, transportation and possession of certain African wildlife species and products has been reintroduced for the 2023-2024 session. The animals included are the African Elephant, African Leopard, African Lion, Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros and African Giraffe. The bill also requires the owner of any part or taxidermy of the listed animals to obtain a certificate of possession from the secretary of state, even if they are in possession of such if this law should be passed. This bill has been passed by the Senate and must pass the Assembly before being sent to the Governor for approval.
Houston Safari Club joined several conservation organizations to petition the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources to request the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources favorably report the Bipartisan Manchin/Daines, Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to S. 2561, the “Cottonwood Fix”. Since the Ninth Circuit Court issued the 2015 Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. United States Forest Service (Cottonwood) decision, the Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have been required to reinitiate consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Land Management and Forest Management Plans at the programmatic level when new Endangered Species Act (ESA) information came to light. This continues to block and slow many essential USFS forest management, wildlife habitat enhancement and wildfire fuel reduction projects.
Forest Conservation Easement Program
Houston Safari Club was part of a consortium of conservation organizations expressing support for the creation of a Forest Conservation Easement Program (FCEP) in the Farm Bill. The purpose of FCEP is to keep forests as forests through the use of conservation easements that purchase development rights from willing private landowners to prevent conversion to non-forest uses. Private forests in a conservation easement can remain privately owned and working. FCEP accomplishes this via two program components: Forest Land Easements (modeled after Agricultural Land Easements under NRCS’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program) and Forest Reserve Easements (as the successor to NRCS’s Healthy Forests Reserve Program). Private forests comprise 58% of all forested land in the U.S. While the total area of forestland in the U.S. has been largely stable historically, private forests now face significant threats, mainly from conversion to housing and urban development. A stand-alone Forest Conservation Easement Program would be the successor to and expansion of the Healthy Forests Reserve Program that ensures private forestland remains intact and in production, continuing to provide numerous benefits to rural and urban communities. FCEP expands upon HFRP by providing an opportunity for eligible entities, like land trusts, to hold forest conservation easements.
Fiscal Year 2024 Operations and Maintenance Funding for the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System
Houston Safari Club expressed its support for the continued funding of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System. The budget increased in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 to $541 million for the U.S National Wildlife Refuge System (the System) and the President has proposed a 2024 budget of $624 million for the System. A recommendation was made for the FY24 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, to provide the System with even more robust funding to correct both historic underfunding and meet the growing needs of the System. Hunting and fishing are fundamentally linked to the System, and trace back to earliest days of the refuge System. With the passage of the Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997, Congress recognized wildlife-dependent recreational uses, which includes hunting and fishing, as priority uses in refuge planning and management.