Two weeks after the February edition of Mississippi Sportsman hit the newsstands detailing that no changes were expected regarding the House Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee in the state legislature, a change took place.
Long-time chair Scott Bounds was replaced by Bill Kinkade, R-Byhalia, who is entering his seventh year in the House. Kinkade was handed the chair by Phillip Gunn, speaker of the house. Kinkade’s vice chairman is Shane Barnett, R-Waynesboro. Bounds remains a member of the committee. Other members are: Chris Brown; Lester Carpenter; Bob Evans; Abe Hudson; Robert Johnson; Trey Lamar; Johnathan Lancaster; Vince Mangold; Carl Mickens; Tom Miles; Ken Morgan; and Karl Oliver.
As we reported in February, the Senate chairman is Neal Whaley, R-Potts Camp.
Both chairmen are from Marshall County, representing districts in the North Mississippi Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone. Of the 21 confirmed CWD cases and 28 suspected CWD cases (awaiting confirmation results), all but two come from the North Zone.
It is natural then that both chairmen have a keen interest in legislation that could help curtail the spread of CWD, which is considered an affliction with a 100-percent fatality rate for deer.
So far, 10 bills have been assigned to the Senate committee and three to the House, and the majority involve CWD is one way or another. Those that could directly impact sportsmen or wildlife management include these:
SB 2152 (Senate bill): Would establish a four-year term for the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “The term of office of executive director shall be four (4) years, and the executive director may be removed for cause by majority vote of the members of the commission or by recall by the Governor.”
SB 2275: Would clarify that a conservation officer must have “probable cause to conduct a search without a warrant;”
SB 2276: Revise and require deer taken under depredation permits be tested for chronic wasting disease;
SB 2313: Would prohibit use of certain scents and the supplemental feeding of deer outside registered enclosures;
HB 450 (House Bill): Would authorize the MDWFP to require annual CWD testing of white-tailed deer taken inside any enclosure;
HB 622: Would require the MDWFP and its commission to provide public notice any hunting and fishing regulation changes in affected areas, and also to notify legislators that represent the affected area.
The legislature had a Feb. 17 deadline for introducing new bills. The deadline for floor action on bills originating in each house is March 3.
Neither chairman sounds supportive of a bill to authorize the MDWFP to create a mandatory harvest reporting system for deer, similar to the authorization granted for turkey hunting before the 2019 turkey season. While both like the idea, Kincaid and Whaley say they prefer more study this year.