Tensions brewing about possibility of allowing hunting on some public lands

08/01/11 Atecia Robinson
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There’s tension brewing about the possibility of allowing hunting on some public land. The South West Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gathered at the Hillsborough Community College in Plant City on Friday to hear petitions given by hunters, birdwatchers, all terrain riders and equestrians.

In a packed meeting hall, a range of citizens from hunters to horseback riders gave reasons why they would or would not like to see lands like around the Chassahowitzka River and the Coastal Swamp Preserve to allow hunting. Rebecca Humbert, from the Natural Riders Trail Club of 165 horseback riders said it would be an accident waiting to happen if equestrians were to share land with hunters.

Maresa Pryor-Luzier, the author of Camping with Horses, was worried about preserving the environment. She fervently opposes hunting on these lands.

James Rigby, a local hunter, wants more public lands open to hunting.

A board member from the Back Country Horseman of America, Truman Prevatt, said his limb was almost severed by a bullet from a hunter’s shot gun while riding his horse. Prevatt is concerned with safety, even though the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requires hunters born after June 1, 1975 to complete a hunter safety course before purchasing a hunting license in Florida.

The two sides disagreed about which use of the land would benefit the state more, using statistics to back up their arguments. But Jason Burton, a biologist from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that some of the statistics might have been inflated.

SWFWMD spokesperson, Robyn Felix, said that the water management district would take all sides into consideration but the decision will ultimately be by the SWFWMD governing board. Felix also said their priority was to make sure that all trails would stay open.

There’s more information online at watermatters.org/hunting.

A myriad of statistics were provided by different groups in relation to the amount of money that would be spent cleaning up after hunters each year and the millions of dollars that hunter and birdwatchers bring to the US economy comparatively. The Daily Reckoning says "In a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, birdwatchers contributed with $36 billion and hunter’s contributed $746 million in licenses and public land access fees alone. Hunter’s also contributed $4.2 billion through a 10 percent federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and gear since 1937."

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