On January 2nd, 2024 both chambers of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened to begin the 2024 legislative session. In the upcoming year BHA’s Rhode Island team plans to continue working on several ongoing policy initiatives, and to address new legislative and regulatory issues that arise affecting Rhode Island’s public lands, waters and wildlife. Below you will find the Rhode Island team’s top policy priorities for 2024.
Priority: Prohibiting Captive Hunting & Wildlife Importation
Enacting legislation to prohibit captive hunting in the Ocean State has been a priority for BHA’s Rhode Island team since 2019, following the near-passage of legislation the year prior that would have facilitated the creation of Rhode Island’s first captive big-game hunting establishment.
During last year’s legislative session a House bill to prohibit importation of wildlife for captive hunting introduced by Rep. Scott Slater passed both the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and later the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote.
In 2024 BHA’s Rhode Island team will work with the RI House to continue the momentum from last year, and will focus on growing support in the RI Senate, where a Bill introduced by Sen. Matt LaMountain was not considered by the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee.
Priority: Reforming RI’s Coastal Resources Management Council
BHA’s Rhode Island team has been involved in legislative conversations about restructuring RI’s Coastal Resources Management Council for several years. As Rhode Island’s agency responsible for carrying out the Coastal Zone Management Act, CRMC is responsible for balancing the protection and development of the Ocean State’s coastal resources. Oftentimes the decisions made by CRMC affect the opportunities available to hunters and anglers along RI’s coasts, and the habitats that RI’s fish and wildlife depend upon.
During last year’s legislative session numerous bills were introduced to propose changes to some of all of the statutory authority currently assigned to CRMC. BHA’s Rhode Island team only supported bills that proposed a complete removal of the current politically-appointed council, which provides little value or expertise to the functions of the agency, and occasionally lands CRMC in legal controversy and often delays important permitting decisions for years.
In 2024 BHA’s Rhode Island team will continue to work with both chambers of the RI General Assembly to highlight the need to reform CRMC, with the goal of establishing a true administrative agency, staffed by experts, that is capable of effectively and efficiently carrying out the difficult task of balancing the protection and development of RI’s coastal zone.
Priority: Advocating for Access, Wildlife Habitat in Aquaculture Permitting
For the last several years, BHA’s Rhode Island team has highlighted issues with proposed aquaculture developments before Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) that would negatively affect public access for hunting and angling and critical wildlife habitat. Additionally, the RI team has worked to support legislative proposals that could help address some of our concerns.
Recognizing that some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities in the Ocean State exist within our coastal waters, BHA’s Rhode Island team will continue to work with both CRMC and the RI General Assembly in the upcoming year to ensure that the both the interests of hunters and anglers and wildlife habitat are considered as part of the aquaculture permitting process.