Legislation would direct Mississippi to protect wildlife, corral commission

Published 11:42 am Thursday, January 18, 2024

JACKSON — House of Representatives Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee Chairman Bill Kinkade introduced his first bill of the 2024 session Wednesday. House Bill 43 written by Kinkade would provide that the state has a duty to protect and sustain wildlife for the public’s benefit.

If passed, HB 43 would amend Mississippi code of 1972 to state that “the wildlife in Mississippi belongs to the citizens of the state at large and to provide that the state has a duty to protect and sustain its wildlife for the public’s benefit as well as the duty and authority to defend the publics interest in the state’s wildlife in accordance with sound scientific principles and for related purposes.”

Kinkade had similar legislation die in committee last year. Due to the election year the legislation did not get pushed through but he promised to bring similar legislation forward again in 2024 and did so Wednesday.

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“We are going to make sure the wildlife is protected in this state. It is a public property and we want to keep it as a public entity,” Kinkade said in The Daily Leader in February 2023. 

This legislation would add wildlife to a list of things the state should promote. Currently, Mississippi code states “It is, and shall be, the public policy of this state to promote hunting, trapping and fishing and other outdoor recreational opportunities and to preserve these activities for all generations to come.”

House Bill 43 was refereed to the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee. This bill comes as the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission made a series of decisions defying scientific principles and wildlife management best practices for combating Chronic Wasting Disease in the state’s deer herd over the past year.

Another piece of legislation was introduced to help corral the MDWFP commission yesterday. House Bill 188 written by Timmy Ladner would expand the commission to nine members. Four of the nine commissioners under the legislation must have either a direct connection to wildlife biology, management or conservation or have earned a bachelor’s degree of science in wildlife biology, management or life science degree. 

HB 188 would additionally limit commissioners to two consecutive terms of five years each. Commissioners would be disqualified from service if they were convicted of violating a game law in the 10 years prior to appointment or receiving two citations. 

Similar to HB43, HB188 would require commissioners to use its power in creating rules and regulations in accordance with “Sound scientific principles and in collaboration with agency staff from the department of wildlife, fisheries and parks.”