RI Assembly sends Three BHA-Backed Wildlife Bills to Governor

Just days before the end of the 2024 legislative session the RI General Assembly approved three wildlife bills in concurrence, each of which was supported by the New England Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Now, each will be transmitted to the Governor for the final step of RI’s legislative enactment process.  

“The New England Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is grateful to the House and Senate bill sponsors, the Committee Chairs, and House and Senate Leadership for their respective roles in advancing bills that will meaningfully improve the ways that RI’s wildlife are managed and protected. At a time when many other states are grappling with the politicization and commercialization of wildlife, the steps taken by the General Assembly during the 2024 legislative session are a clear statement that RI’s wildlife will be managed by experts according to the best available science, and as a public resource for the benefit of all Rhode Islanders” said New England Chapter Board Chair Michael Woods following the final legislative steps for passage on June 11. “Now, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers calls on Governor McKee to sign these bills into law.”


Bills Passed: Captive Hunting Prohibition Tagged_Elk_Image.png

BHA’s RI Team worked closely with legislators, aligned organizations, and RI’s F&W agency to advance H7294A & S2732A, introduced by Rep. Scott Slater and Sen. Matthew LaMountain, respectively. Should they become law, the pair of bills would define and prohibit captive hunting within Rhode Island, and prohibit the importation of wildlife for that purpose.

The movement of live deer by the captive hunting industry has been linked to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) to new areas in recent years (for example, in Wisconsin and Texas). When introduced, CWD can be transmitted to non-captive animals by direct or environmental contact, and there are few management options to slow its spread in endemic areas. While there are no known cases where CWD has spread to humans, the CDC recommends that infected venison not be consumed. Additionally, the management of CWD is complicated and expensive, placing an unnecessary burden on already under-funded and under-staffed state fish & wildlife agencies.

Prohibiting captive hunting and wildlife importation has been a top policy priority for BHA’s RI Team for several years, and reflects both AFWA’s Best Management Practices for CWD and BHA’s North American Policy Position on Privatization of Wildlife and Captive Cervids approved by the North American Board in 2016. The need for legislation originated around 2018, when a local business approached the legislature seeking to establish RI’s first big game captive hunting facility.

H7294A first passed the House of Representatives on May 23 by a vote of 69-0, and S2732A first passed the Senate on April 9 by a vote of 32-3.

Read BHA’s Letter supporting H7294A & S2732A

In the Press:

Local hunters group advocating for banning captive hunting in Rhode Island – The Public’s Radio

A private club wanted to import big game to RI. The state may ban captive hunting instead – Providence Journal

Captive Hunting on Track to Be Banned - ecoRI News

General Assembly approves Rep. Slater and Sen. LaMountain’s ‘captive hunting’ ban – RI Legislative Press Bureau



Bills Passed: Management of Furbearing Wildlife pete-nuij-lWHvAw1Inbs-unsplash.jpg

Following up on last year’s efforts (more in our 2023 RI policy roundup)  H7562A & S2297A, introduced by Rep. Thomas Noret & Sen. David Tikoian respectively, propose removal of the list of “furbearers protected” from RI’s General Laws, and to assign the responsibility of maintaining the list to RI’s Department of Environmental Management. In simple terms, the furbearers list defines which species are under management in RI, pursuant to the agency’s various rules and regulations.

Should the bills be signed into law, there are two important changes that would occur. First, the agency, rather than the legislature, would have the authority to update the scientific descriptions of furbearers that are included. The current list in RI’s general laws has not been updated since 1981, and subsequently many of the scientific names that are included are outdated and incorrect. Second, the agency would have the authority to add species to the list as local populations change, and to promulgate rules that are appropriate for their management. There is little doubt that some species of furbearing wildlife, like black bears and bobcats, are becoming more common in Rhode Island. While the changes proposed would not immediately, and perhaps not even long-term, result in new hunting or trapping opportunities, such a determination is better made by the state’s fish & wildlife professionals, rather than the political realm of the General Assembly.

H7562A first passed the House of Representatives on May 14 by a vote of 74-0, and S2297A first passed the Senate on May 9 by a vote of 35-1.

Read BHA’s Letter supporting H7562A & S2297A



Bills Passed: Utilization of Roadkill jeffrey-hamilton-mUgwS8Z6ON8-unsplash.jpg

In their first year under consideration H7358A & S2810A, introduced by Rep. David Bennett & Sen. David Tikoian, made their way quickly through the RI General Assembly. Together, these bills propose the removal of statutory restrictions on the utilization of wildlife killed in vehicular collisions in favor of tasking the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) with promulgating rules and regulations on the topic.

While the bills would not immediately or broadly legalize the possession or utilization of roadkill, they are undoubtedly a step toward that destination. Under the current law, deer are the only species that can be kept, and only by the person involved in a collision following an investigation by a conservation officer. Additionally, deer that are salvaged may only be consumed by the person involved in the collision and their immediate family. Should the bills become law, this rigid, restrictive law would be lifted, and DEM would be empowered to determine what species may be possessed and utilized and by whom, to set a process for the reporting of road-killed wildlife, and to promulgate regulations through their administrative rulemaking process. Once new rules are enacted, the agency will receive more detailed reports of vehicular collisions, while also facilitating better utilization of RI’s wildlife resources and alleviating the current workload on DEM’s Environmental Police, who are tasked with collecting and disposing of unclaimed carcasses.

H7358A first passed the House of Representatives on May 23 by a vote of 69-0, and S2810A first passed the Senate on May 9 by a vote of 37-0.

Read BHA’s Letter supporting H7358A & S2810A

In the Press:

Road-kill bill: Can RI make better use of animals killed by drivers? Should bounty be shared? – Providence Journal

Bill Would Change Procedure for Reporting, Collecting Roadkill - ecoRI News

Assembly approves bill to modernize reporting of vehicle collisions with wildlife – RI Legislative Press Bureau


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About New England BHA Chapter

New England BHA is a voice for the sporting community in New England that values solitude, silence, clean and free flowing rivers, and habitat for large, wide-ranging wildlife.