Humason supports state legal hunting bill

WESTFIELD – The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that curbs illegal hunting practices or poaching in the Commonwealth. State Sen. Donald Humason (R-Westfield,) who supports the legislation, also called for a change in the way hunters are permitted to transport rifles or shotguns.
The legislation (S-2069) strengthens existing state laws aimed at hunters who illegally harm or kill wildlife, which includes increasing existing penalties on individuals convicted of violating state hunting laws.
The increased penalties are designed to discourage poaching. The bill drew support from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The bill originated in the Environment, Natural Resources and Agricultural Committee.
In a statement, State Sen. Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury,) who sponsored the legislation, said the Commonwealth’s anti-poaching laws have basically gone unchanged since the 1930s.
“As a former environmental police officer, and as an avid outdoorsman, I recognize that poaching is not only a concern for animal protection advocates and conservationists but also law-abiding hunters,” he said.
“Poachers cheat the system and gain an unfair advantage over lawful hunters,” Moore said. “This bill will give law enforcement officers new tools to prevent poaching and to hold offenders accountable for their criminal acts.”
A provision in the legislation increase the penalties for illegally hunting bears, bobcats and endangered specials, which includes hunters who use dogs or bait. The fines range from $1,000 to $5,000 and up to one year in prison.
The law would also require the Commonwealth to join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, a national network that shares information on hunters, trappers or fishermen who are found in violation.
Only Massachusetts, Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey and Nebraska are non-compact members but the New Jersey legislature is considering legislation to join the network.
Compact states also enter into a reciprocity agreement, which gives members the right to suspend hunting, fishing or trapping licenses of individual who broke wildlife laws in other states. Reciprocity prevents an individual from obtaining another license elsewhere.
“Hunting is a longstanding tradition in my district and across western Massachusetts, so it is important to me that we support those who hunt legally by ensuring the laws they abide by are practicable and sensible,” Humason said.
Humason tacked an amendment onto the legislation that eases restrictions on hunters who ride all-terrain vehicles (ATV) while carrying an unloaded rifle or shotgun. Currently, hunters must keep an unloaded rifle or shotgun in a locked container on the ATV.
He said the existing law places an undue burden on Massachusetts hunters, especially hunters in this region who often times must trek over challenging terrain. On Friday, Humason said the hunting legislation was a good opportunity to attach several related measures.
While the legislation goes after scofflaws, the senator said his amendment is a “common sense” measure that rewards law abiding hunters. At times, particularly when transporting larger game, a locked, unloaded rifle can prove impractical,” he said.
Besides his provision on transporting unloaded weapons, Humason filed eight other hunting related amendments.
“Some of my colleagues agreed the ATV is pretty common sense, pretty innocuous,” he said. “Someone who’s deep in the woods, especially in western Mass., should be able to use an ATV.”
The Senate bill moves on to the House for consideration.

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