Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Maryland Horse Council is grateful to Senators David Brinkley and Norman Stone ...

The Maryland Horse Council is grateful to Senators David Brinkley and Norman Stone, members of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review of the Maryland General Assembly, for their prompt and positive response to MHC’s plea that they request a hearing on “emergency” regulations proposed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to implement hunting in 4 western counties. By law, a hearing must be scheduled if a member of the Committee requests it. We await the scheduling of the hearing. As our letter to the Committee demonstrates, DNR’s actions in its attempt to promulgate new regulations without giving Marylanders notice of their content and an opportunity to comment on them is an affront to due process and a violation of established law.

Senator Brinkley stands up for “Due Process”


Senator Brinkley stands up for “Due Process”

The Equiery applauds Senator David Brinkley for standing up for our constitutional right to due process of law by requesting a hearing for DLS Control No. 14-217 Submission of COMAR as “Emergency Regulation.”
The Equiery likewise applauds the Maryland Horse Council for alerting the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review (AELR) and for alerting Senator Brinkley (as well as other members of the committee) to this potential circumvention of due process. It is too easy in today’s society to become complacent about the government and about the regulatory process. Too easy to shrug one’s shoulders and say, “Well, that’s just the way they do things.” To paraphrase Edmund Burke, who looked with jaundiced eye upon bureaucracy, tyranny will prevail when good people stand by and do nothing.
In mid-June of this year, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife & Heritage Services (DNR WHS) released the 2014-2015 Guide to Hunting and Trapping in Maryland with regulations included that had not yet been approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review (AELR), as is required by law.
DNR WHS eventually did submit these regulations to the AELR, but not until July 29, more than a full month after releasing the guide, and more than two months after the passage of Maryland’s law enabling, but not mandating, expanded hunting in Maryland’s four western counties.
There was plenty of time for the regulation request to be submitted via the regular process. DNR has already argued that there was not enough time to submit the request via the regular process, because of the new law signed by Governor O’Malley in May increasing the opportunities for expanded hunting in Western Maryland on private and public land. However, DNR submitted many other requests for updated regulations based on laws signed by the governor in May via the standard process prior to submitting this particularly controversial regulation as an emergency–and doing so more or less in secret.
Suffice it to say that, by submitting the request as an emergency, it is clear that bureaucrats at DNR were hoping the maneuver would stay off the radar of the general public, bypassing the public’s legal right to comment.
But adding a few days of hunting in no way, either legally or ethically, constitutes a regulatory “emergency,” which is intended to cope with public health crises and other true public emergencies. It is clear that bureaucrats at DNR were using the emergency process as a cynical way to bypass public comment.
Consequently, no one had an opportunity to comment. Bow hunters were denied their right to comment (and bow hunters are conspicuously excluded from the regulation’s expansion of Sunday hunting, although they were included in the new law). Perhaps bow hunters would like an opportunity to comment on the proposed regs. Other users of public land were excluded from commenting, including–but not limited to–hikers, bird watchers, and equestrians. (For the record,The Equiery is supportive of game hunting, including the hunting of deer with firearms, and is supportive of certain expanded opportunities for deer hunting with firearms. The Equiery also believes in the shared use of public lands; however, we believe that not all uses are simultaneously compatible, so in certain situations, “shared use” means allocating different days – or different periods within certain days – for different pursuits.)
There are more arcane details that support the necessity of the request by Senator Brinkley for a hearing, details that could possibly be used to distract interested parties from the core issue. However, we trust that Senator Brinkley will not allow these red herrings to distract him from ensuring that the O’Malley administration follows due process as required by law.

Monday, July 28, 2014

National Parks mean $212.7 Million for Maryland

From our friends at The Equiery:

National Parks mean $212.7 Million for Maryland

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 6,615,155 visitors to national parks in Maryland spent $212.7 million dollars and supported 2,689 jobs in the state in 2013.
“The national parks in Maryland attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, acting regional director, said. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way.  This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and a big factor in our state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”
Some (not all) of the national parks in Maryland allow horses, such as Antietam National Battlefield, Catoctin Mountain Park, and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Of course, there is also the Assateague Island National Seashore with the ponies.
The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.
According to the 2013 economic analysis, most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent).
The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).
Click here to view the report visit. The report includes information for visitor spending by park and by state.
To learn more about national parks in Maryland and how the National Park Service works with Maryland communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, click here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Horse Council asks Governor to veto Sunday hunting bills

Here is the letter the Horse Council sent to Governor O'Malley, asking him to veto the bills that would allow Sunday hunting on both public and private land in Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.

April 4, 2014
The Honorable Martin J. O’Malley Governor of Maryland
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401

Dear Governor O’Malley:

The Maryland Horse Council has worked hard during this legislative session alongside other organizations representing outdoor recreation interests to block the expansion of Sunday hunting in Maryland. Our senators and delegates listened at hearing after hearing as our members and allies (many of whom are avid deer hunters) described the need for one day each week in the period from October into January when we can hike, ride horses, watch birds, and do whatever we like outdoors without fear of encounters with hunters, and when the deer herd itself can “settle.” Several statewide Sunday hunting bills as well as county bills in Anne Arundel, Calvert, and Harford were successfully blocked.

We had a very productive meeting with DNR Secretary Gill on March 5 at which we pointed out the inconsistency of DNR’s positions on this issue. On the one hand, DNR actively lobbies for expanding Sunday hunting, saying that it is necessary to achieve their goal of controlling the deer population. On the other hand, DNR has publicly stated its desire to increase the deer population in western Maryland, and opposed a southern Maryland bill that would establish a program to train deer hunters to reduce the herd on farms. We also pointed out to Secretary Gill that the statistics DNR uses to lobby for Sunday hunting are drawn from annual harvest reports that actually demonstrate Sunday hunting’s failure to increase the overall harvest.

As a result of our March 5 meeting, Secretary Gill asked the budget committees to include a request that DNR conduct a Deer Population Management Report (Committee Narrative K00A03.01) to assess the relative impact of Sunday hunting versus other deer herd reduction strategies. We were impressed by Secretary Gill’s responsiveness to our concerns and look forward to working with DNR as they compile information for this study and write the report. We also appreciate your recent appointment of Joe Michael to the Wildlife Advisory Committee. His participation will improve the Maryland Horse Council’s ability to better inform our members of DNR intentions with respect to hunting days.

Unfortunately, two Sunday hunting bills slipped through the legislative process and will appear for your signature. SB 472 / HB 406 and SB 473 / HB 432 allow DNR to authorize Sunday hunting in Frederick, Allegany, Washington, and Garrett counties, one for just deer and the other for all species. Residents of those counties are just learning of this unfortunate turn of events and realizing what it will mean for their 2014-2015 outdoor calendars. The bills passed under the pretense of a need to reduce the deer herd in those western counties, despite DNR’s public statement of its desire to increase the herd in parts of this region [DNR 2014-2016 Regulation Concepts, February 19, 2014].

According to an opinion survey conducted by Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, VA for DNR and appended to DNR’s Maryland White-tailed Deer Plan 2009-2018, “Opposition exceeds support for deer hunting on Sundays in Maryland among Maryland residents. On the other hand, among deer hunters, a majority support hunting deer on Sundays. Large landowners are like residents in that opposition exceeds support for hunting deer on Sundays.”

Given the undue burden on the 98% of Marylanders who do not hunt, Sunday hunting should not be permitted unless it can be definitively shown that it is a critically essential tool for managing wildlife, and that no other method that preserves safe Sundays is effective.

Therefore, the Maryland Horse Council respectfully requests that you take one of two courses of action:
1.Veto SB 472 / HB 406 and SB 473 / HB 432 with a statement to the effect that DNR is undertaking a study on deer population management to determine the need for Sunday hunting, or
2. Sign SB 472 / HB 406 and SB 473 / HB 432 only after securing a commitment from DNR Secretary Gill that DNR will not authorize the Sunday hunting that the bills permit until after publication of its 2014 Deer Population Management Report, which will have given all the various stakeholders (hikers, mountain bikers, cross- country skiers, bird watchers, equestrians, etc., as well as hunters and farmers) the chance to work out a comprehensive solution to the deer management problem that really works, while preserving safe Sundays.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Jane Seigler

cc: Sen. MIller
Del. Busch
Sen. Joan Conway Del. Macintosh Sec. Gill
Ms. Ashley Valis

Monday, April 7, 2014

Trail Riders Action Alert

Via Equestrian Land Conservation Resource:
The multi-year national highway bill, called MAP-21 that authorizes the Federal Highway Administration's Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is set to expire this year. Congress is beginning work on the next highway bill and if RTP is going to continue it will have to be included in that bill.

All recreational riders and trail users are being urged to call their Senators and ask them to sign on to the Recreational Trails Program Dear Colleague letter being circulated this week. The deadline for Senators to sign on is April 9th.

Click here for more info on how to take action.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Annapolis update

The Horse Council has been very busy during this legislative session, with the extraordinary assistance of our new lobbyist, Frank Boston. Our efforts have been primarily focused on trying to prevent the expansion of Sunday hunting. These "Sunday Hunting" bills are usually introduced county-by-county, and they are often "courtesy bills," introduced by the "County Delegation," i.e., all the legislators from the particular county. This means they are very difficult to successfully oppose. The session is not yet over, but we are fairly confident that we have succeeded in Anne Arundel and Harford. Still in play are Calvert, where we are reasonably optimistic, and Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington, where a favorable outcome is much more in doubt.

Here is the testimony submitted today for the House Environmental Matters Committee hearing on the western counties bills:

Testimony of the Maryland Horse Council
before the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee in Opposition to SB 472 and SB 473, Sunday Hunting in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington Counties

April 2, 2014
The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) strongly reiterates its opposition to expanding Sunday hunting in Maryland, for the reasons expressed in our testimony before this Committee on related Sunday hunting bills.
In particular:
Sunday hunting has not been proven to be significantly effective in managing the deer population. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has agreed to conduct a study this year of the effectiveness of Sunday hunting as a tool of deer population control and its effect on other users of outdoor recreation. Sunday hunting should not be further expanded until DNR has completed this study.
These bills that purport to expand the opportunities to hunt deer are counter to DNR’s own statement that it needs to increase the deer population in Region A (Allegany, Garrett and part of Washington Counties). [DNR 2014-2016 Regulation Concepts, February 19, 2014]
Given the undue burden on the 98% of Marylanders who do not hunt, these bills should not be enacted unless it can be definitively shown that Sunday hunting is a critically essential tool for managing wildlife, and that no other method that preserves safe Sundays is effective.
MHC urges the Committee to report these bills unfavorably, and give all the various stakeholders (hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, bird watchers, equestrians, etc., as well as hunters and farmers) the chance to work out a global solution to the deer management problem that really works, while preserving safe Sundays.

Respectfully Submitted,
Jane Seigler

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Horse Council comments on MDE proposal governing Erosion and Sediment Control Plans and Stormwater Management Plans

Here are the Horse Council's comments on the Draft Guidance for Agricultural Practices and Structures:

February 10, 2014
To: Brian Clevinger, MDE
Sediment, Stormwater, and Dam Safety Program
Robert Sommers, MDE Secretary
Earl Hance, MDA Secretary
Re: Draft Guidance For Agricultural Practices and Structures DRAFT
Mr. Clevinger,
It has been a pleasure working with Herb Sachs, MDA, and many others on the issues that created the need for this guideline. We spoke to Secretary Sommers about this at last week’s Ag Dinner and have had a number of meetings with Secretary Hance on the topic.
The lack of a definition of agricultural structures was a problem that allowed some counties to require Erosion and Sediment Control plans for site preparation for barns, sheds, and indoor riding arenas. Some of those counties also required that farmers hire civil engineers to stamp site plans even when Soil Conservation District staff were involved in the projects. The costs in many cases were exorbitant and the engineers often had no experience with farm management issues. We applaud MDE for drafting guidelines that will amend the regulation that contradicted state law on the need for Erosion and Sediment Control Plans for agricultural structures.
We also applaud the Department for drafting a model Stormwater Management Plan application that does not require the involvement of civil engineers. The sketch plan required in your model application appears to be well within the abilities of Soil Conservation District staff, which in our view is the appropriate agency to work with farmers on erosion and runoff issues.
Your proposed definition of an agricultural structure is the following:
An Agricultural Structure means a structure built on a farm used to further crop and livestock production and conservation of related soil and water resources. The structure may be used for basic processing of products produced on the farm on which it is located. Basic processing does not change the form of the product, but does include treatment such as cutting, drying, and packing necessary for storing and marketing. Agricultural structures cannot be used for human occupancy, nor are they intended for access by the general public.
This definition states that an agricultural structure must be “used to further crop and livestock production.” Under the provisions of the 2009 Horses as Agriculture statute (Agriculture, sections 2-701(d) and 2-702.1), caring for and training horses and similar activities are clearly defined as agriculture. Some counties might argue
that these activities are not "livestock production" unless exclusively devoted to breeding. Under that interpretation, the definition would exclude most barns, sheds and private riding arenas.
We propose that the definition of an agricultural structure include as an allowed use “keeping and managing livestock.” Horses are classified as livestock in state and federal law, and “keeping and managing” covers the typical activities that take place on horse farms.
Maryland Horse Council understands the rationale behind excluding buildings “intended for access by the general public.” Counties have struggled with the meaning of this restriction in local law, and generally conclude that a building where horses are boarded is not a public use building because each “client” is under contract to have his or her livestock managed at the facility or has a rental agreement to use the livestock housed at the facility. Public use in the horse industry generally refers to stores, show facilities that attract spectators, and racetracks.
Unless the definition of an agricultural structure is amended to include buildings used to keep and manage horses, the horse farms that make up 587,000 acres of the state’s farmland will be required to comply with the same site preparation rules as urban developers. Civil engineers would replace Soil Conservation District staff as the liaison between the farm owners and county government during farm modernization projects, leaving the farm owners less incentive to maintain the Cooperator Agreements that are the foundation Soil Conservation Districts’ positive influence on farms.
Maryland Horse Council encourages MDE to seek input from other sectors of agriculture on this definition as well. The exclusion of many kinds of value added production seems to have no policy rationale. Private wineries, dairies that produce ice cream, and any number of other activities that take place under the roofs of agricultural buildings have the same effect on erosion and sediment loss regardless of the activity. We believe that when the General Assembly exempted agricultural structures from erosion and sediment control plan requirements it envisioned agriculture in broader terms than this definition allows. We see no policy argument in favor of the narrow definition in the draft that has been circulated.
Please contact me or our President, Jane Seigler, if you seek further input from the horse industry on this or related issues.
Steuart Pittman
Legislative Committee Chair, Maryland Horse Council
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