State Considers Wildlife Compact

June 5, 2013

Last week, the State Senate came together for one final week of debating and voting on many proposals that would make changes to our current laws. One of these bills would redefine how Connecticut recognizes the conservation laws of other states. Senate Bill 1020, An Act Concerning the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact could potentially impact those who enjoy the great outdoors, especially if you fish or hunt.

Introduced by the Environment Committee, this bill would make our state a part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact and end our participation in the Northeast Conservation Law Enforcement Compact. The new compact would require our state to recognize hunting, fishing and trapping license sanctions in any of the other 39 participating states and take reciprocal action. That means if your license is suspended in another state, it will be suspended here as well. This week, I would like to share several of my concerns with you about this bill.

One concern is that our nation’s diversity of wildlife means that the rules and regulations affecting different species would also vary from one state to another. In many cases, a “one size fits all” solution is not always the best when dealing with complex or diverse issues. For example, the state of Florida is home to the armadillo. In Connecticut, we do not have these animals, and this difference could impact residents who may have the ability to hunt in each state.

Another concern is that the bill may require those who are accused of violating conservation laws to provide collateral, namely in the form of cash, to a law enforcement officer to secure their appearance at a future trial. In this case, collateral is defined as “any cash or other security.” As a former police officer, I cannot imagine asking someone for cash in exchange for letting them return on their way.

Third, the compact would shift power from the state legislature to the compact board of administrators. This raises concerns that we would be unable to make decisions that affect our own rules and regulations. Beyond this power shift, the compact also raises ethics concerns over a provision that would allow the board to accept donations from virtually anywhere, including public, private and non-profit organizations, and spend these funds at their own discretion.

Additionally, there appears to be no centralized database to check for violations in other states. With hunting and fishing licenses available from a wide variety of sources, including town clerks, outdoors retailers, tackle shops and other businesses, the process could be difficult to ensure. Despite these concerns, the measure ultimately passed by a vote of 25 to 10.

Overall, I believe that there are far more important issues for the legislature to be focusing on in the final weeks of the 2013 legislative session. While today marks the last day of this year’s session, the debate will continue. Next week, I will provide an update on the state budget.