Newly introduced senate bills address wildlife issues

Published 1:56 pm Thursday, January 19, 2023

JACKSON — A handful of bills regarding Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks are tackling current issues. Two bills would close loopholes which could lead to the sale of live deer and charge the commission with protecting wildlife for public best interest while following sound scientific principles and limit the power of the MDWFP commission. All of the bills were referred to the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee. 

Senate Bill 2536 would clarify that it is unlawful to buy or sell, or offer to sell, any game birds, game animals or game fish unless specifically permitted by law as an exception passed by the legislature. The bill tackles an important issue where the sale of deer could be legalized under a new official opinion.

Mississippi’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office on January 19, 2022 and sought an opinion on the sale of live white tailed deer at the bequest of Billy Deviney. Attorney General Lynn Fitch issued an official opinion on the sale of live white-tailed deer in October 2022. 

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MDWFP’s commission believes it has authority granted through the Mississippi Code Section 49-7-58(3) to promulgate rules and regulations for white-tailed deer in enclosures. Commissioners wanted to know if they could promulgate rules so deer in high-fenced enclosures could be traded by registered white-tailed deer captive breeders. Lincoln County currently has one location which has a deer enclosure permit and there are 114 high fenced enclosures and four breeder pens in Mississippi.  

One question the commission asks is whether there is any legal prohibition on the commission creating administrative rules for the commercial trade of white-tailed deer between properly registered white-tailed deer captive breeders, as authorized by 40 Miss. Admin. Code Pt. 2, R. 8.2(C). The second question is would the response be different if the deer came from a state university or from another part of the United States. 

Fitch’s office replied the commission could promulgate a rule allowing for the trade of white-tailed deer in enclosures without specifically contravening an express legislative act. The response would not change if those deer came from a state university or another part of the US. 

Senate Bill 2540 would “establish unequivocally that wildlife in Mississippi belongs to the citizens at large and the state has a duty to protect and sustain wildlife for the public’s benefit, as well as the duty and authority to defend the public’s interest in wildlife in accordance with sound scientific principles.”

SB2540 tackles the sale of deer and could address the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission decision to lift a supplemental feed ban in Claiborne County. Since they lifted the ban, six cases of Chronic Wasting Disease have been detected 1.5 miles from the Claiborne County line in Tensas Parish. 

Supplemental feed bans are a best scientific practice for managing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. SB2540 would require the commission to collaborate with the department in protecting wildlife for future generations. 

Senate Bill 2535 would change the definition of Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission to an advisory committee to aid the Department director Lynn Posey in decision making. The department director would serve the governor according to the senate bill.