Connecticut hunters and anglers have long enjoyed the privilege of practicing their craft in the public lands and waters of their home state. The State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, State Parks, and other public lands protect valuable fish and wildlife habitats and offer a multitude of hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities, thereby fulfilling the state’s responsibility of providing residents access to their shared natural resources. But despite their great importance, these lands are under threat.
Every year the state Legislature puts forward a Conveyance Bill, through which state assets are transferred or sold, including state land. By making last minute amendments to the bill after public hearings have closed, legislators have the ability to sell, transfer, or convey parcels of public land without public hearing. This loophole in the democratic process puts state lands in jeopardy, able to be used as bargaining chips in closed door legislative deal-making.
This is particularly threatening to hunters and anglers who search for small, often overlooked pieces of public land, where few people visit and they can enjoy the seclusion of nature. Due to their small size and low profile, these pieces of state property are often considered of little value to the public and are at higher risk of sale or transfer due to the lack of public outcry after the deal is done.
In an attempt to protect public lands and increase transparency in the legislative process, an amendment to the Connecticut State Constitution, will be a referendum ballot question during the November, 2018 election. The referendum, referred to as Connecticut Legislative Requirements to Transfer State Properties Amendment, would, if passed 1) require any changes to the Conveyance Bill to be given public hearing, thus removing the Legislature’s ability to sell or transfer state land without public input, and 2) require a two-thirds vote for any sale or transfer of lands managed by the Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection.
New England BHA supported the legislation that led to this referendum and is pleased to see that sportsmen and women will have a chance to make a difference with their vote.
Connecticut has a rich hunting and fishing tradition, and generations have relied on state lands for access to wildlife and wild places. As an organization founded on the protection and management of public lands for hunting and fishing, New England Backcountry Hunters and Anglers strongly supports the adoption of the Connecticut Legislative Requirements to Transfer State Properties Amendment.