Great interest has been taken in the debate over Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania this year. When you drill down into the facts of the debate, however, I find the reasoning behind the uproar utterly perplexing.
Let’s start with the numbers. There are multiple economic impact studies that have been completed during the past five years. The first was produced by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC). The LBFC is a bipartisan committee made up of six members each from the House and the Senate. Their report, which was issued in 2005, estimated that Sunday hunting would create 5,300 new jobs and generate $629 million of economic impact each year in Pennsylvania.
Those numbers were supported by two additional recent studies. The first was produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) earlier this year. NSSF’s study projected 8,200 jobs and a $764 million impact– a substantial increase over the 2005 study. Just last week, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance released its own study – done using the exact same criteria used for the 2005 LBFC study and simply updating the numbers based on the most recent data available. This study showed a creation of 7,200 jobs and $777 million in economic activity.
My point is this – whether we are talking about an additional $650 million or $750 million, or 5,300 verses 8,200 jobs , we’re still talking about injecting more than a half-BILLION dollars into the Commonwealth’s economy each year and creating thousands of new jobs.
The second item that I find baffling is the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s position: they are actively advocating for a policy that RESTRICTS their own members’ property rights. That’s right, by not allowing landowners – or hunters – to decide for themselves if they want to allow or partake in Sunday hunting, property rights are being restricted with the blessing and encouragement of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
Additionally, it’s presumptuous of the Farm Bureau to think that they should be able to dictate what happens on ALL PUBLIC and PRIVATE lands in the Commonwealth. Do farmers own a significant amount of land in Pennsylvania? Absolutely, and hunter’s often benefit from the use of it, just as farmers benefit from sportsmen controlling game populations by hunting. But farmers don’t own all the land – not even close. What gives Farm Bureau the right to tell every landowner in the state what they can and cannot do on their own land?
The bottom line is this: Under House Bill 1760, farmers (and regular landowners) will have the same ability to restrict when and if hunters can access their land on Sundays just as they do Monday through Saturday right now. House Bill 1760 merely puts control of setting seasons and bag limits into the hands of the appropriate governmental agency—the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
At the end of the day, there are many arguments that have been tossed about as to why Pennsylvania should continue to treat sportsmen and sportswomen different from other citizens – some more perplexing than others. But why in 2011, is the state of Pennsylvania still telling landowners that they are not able to decide how to use their own land on Sunday? And what cost to the Commonwealth’s coffers is the legislature willing to accept to continue this outdated ban on Sunday hunting?