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Sportsmen Legislators meet in Myrtle Beach

The 2012 annual conference of the National Association of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) met at The Marina Inn at Grand Dunes in Myrtle Beach in late November. The NASC invites sportsmen legislators from across the nation to join together to discuss issues they face in their home states. South Carolina served as the host state because of the culture of hunting and fishing found in the Palmetto state.

The sharing of information helps to keep concerns about sporting issues on the front burner for the politicians who can shape the policies that affect those who value the great outdoors. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) in Washington, D.C. serves as the umbrella organization for NASC. It has been five years since South Carolina last hosted the NASC conference at The Clinton House shooting preserve.

The NASC Executive Council President is S.C. Representative Mike Pitts from Laurens, and he was instrumental in bringing the NASC conference to S.C in both 2008 and 2012. “The agenda of this year’s meeting provided an opportunity for the bipartisan members to take the policy initiatives discussed here, back to their colleagues in various state legislatures,” said Jeff Crane, President of the CSF.

Of course, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) keeps a high profile at such events by licensing these out of state sportsmen before their afternoon hunting and fishing trips. SCDNR Director Alvin Taylor was on hand to personally welcome everyone, joining U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe. “I came down from Washington D.C. to thank these sportsmen-legislators for their leadership at the state level,” said Ashe.

Some of the topics discussed at NASC included knife rights, silencer legality education, uniform hunter education programs, catch shares, idle iron policies, and the threats from feral hogs. Former SCDNR Director John Frampton spoke about the 2012 NASC conference theme, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program.

If you have ever purchased firearms, ammunition, bow and arrows, fishing equipment and licenses, then you are already a part of the conservation plans run by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program. These purchases generate excise taxes, which are earmarked for conservation programs. “It’s America’s Sporting Heritage that helps fuel the economy each and every year,” said Frampton. “We have got to keep hunter participation up, because as our ranks thin, so does our revenue.”

The WSFR program has saved millions of acres of habitat, and it works in every state. More protected acreage means higher levels of game and fish, which translates into more opportunities for sportsmen. A review of the history of the WSFR in S.C. shows conservation of the Waterhorn Tract in the Francis Marion National Forest. Back in 1941, it was WSFR funding that purchased the Webb Wildlife Management Area in Hampton County.

In the case of the Webb Center, it was more than the conservation of one 5000-acre tract, including an old-growth cypress swamp along the Savannah River. That initial purchase was later augmented with adjacent properties being purchased by SCDNR, growing the wildlife management area to 20,000-acres. Deer draw hunts for $25 on these properties are just one example how S.C. residents can benefit from the initial WSFR action.

The visiting legislators finished their three-day meeting with a menu of sporting activities that included wild boar hunting in Horry County, quail hunting in Georgetown County,  and inshore fishing along the Grand Strand. But for visitors from landlocked states like Missouri, a day at the beach was reward enough for their time and travel.

Coastal South Carolina can be proud of all that it has to offer to visiting sportsmen. The fact that our ancestors have held high the traditions of hunting and fishing for generations makes the Palmetto State a natural fit for those who pursue outdoor recreation. Colletonians know exactly what I mean!

 

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (341 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com