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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"A recreational economy, forever?"
ALBANY, July 10 -- Summertime and the fishing is easy, the old thought goes. But will that always be the case in New York State? Some of us want to make sure that this idea remains a part of New York’s thinking for generations to come. And we believe it will if a legislative proposal that began making its way through the Legislature several weeks ago ever becomes the law of the land. Let me explain.
Every five years the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conducts what’s known as the “National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.” This survey proves invaluable to state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation groups, and many other federal, state and private organizations who utilize it for a range of purposes including wildlife management. The last of these surveys, in 2006, revealed striking facts about the nationwide economic impact of wildlife-based recreation. It found, for example, that 87.5 million U.S. residents fished, hunted or engaged in other wildlife-related recreation. Further, the Fish & Wildlife Service reported that these residents “spent over $122 billion pursuing their recreational activities, contributing to millions of jobs in industries and businesses that support wildlife recreation.”
$122 billion. That’s just a little less than this year’s entire New York State budget. Eye opening, right? Hunting, fishing and trapping are deeply rooted in New York’s (and our region’s) culture, experience and tradition. But did you know it was such a boon to the bottom line? It’s big business, in other words. New York’s 1.2 million sportsmen and sportswomen, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, generate nearly $2 billion worth of statewide economic activity and directly create 28,000 jobs.
So with the goal of forever preserving these long-held traditions for future generations (to say nothing of capturing the upstate economic impact), the state Senate approved legislation in the waning days of this year’s session, which I proudly co-sponsored, that for the first time in state history would provide Constitutional protection to the right to hunt, fish and trap in New York.
Some might still wonder, Is that really necessary? I can only tell you that over the short time that I’ve served in the state Assembly and now this year, my first, in the Senate, I’ve seen a steady and determined effort on the part of a bloc of mostly downstate legislators to erode our Second Amendment rights. Add to this that New York has become increasingly urbanized (and suburbanized) over the past generation, rural areas have become increasingly marginalized politically, and there’s been an alarming loss of open space and wild areas in some regions – and it’s no real stretch of the imagination to consider our sporting traditions at risk.
Thus, this proposed Constitutional amendment. It’s our belief
that setting the state's statutory rights to hunt, fish and trap within
the firmer stone of the Constitution will allow the people of New York
to declare these rights to engage in outdoor pastimes and pursuits, and
more adequately protect them from any adversarial or unfavorable Legislature
in the future. New York’s hunters and anglers, joined by thousands
upon thousands of our brethren from across the nation who travel here
for New York’s unique outdoor experiences, annually spend millions
of dollars on goods and services provided by local businesses in communities
across the upstate region – sporting licenses, bait and tackle,
hotels and motels, restaurants, lodges and camps, groceries and hardware,
vehicles, boats, fuel, guide services and the list goes on. These expenditures
So it’s a simple but powerful idea: a state Constitutional amendment protecting New York’s long-standing outdoor traditions.
On a related note, I was grateful to join forces with area Assemblymen Chris Friend and Phil Palmesano to gain this session’s approval of legislation, which now needs only Governor Cuomo’s signature to become law, to permanently authorize rifle hunting in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties. New York authorized rifle hunting for deer and bear in Chemung, Steuben and Yates counties in 2008 on a three-year trial basis, until October 2011. A local rifle hunting season was established in Schuyler County in 2009, also until this October.
We’ve had a safe and successful experience with rifle hunting locally. It’s proven beneficial to local counties, and it should be made a permanent part of the region’s economic and recreational landscape.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869