The holidays bring many traditions in Alabama -- gathering with family and friends, the Iron Bowl, giving thanks for all that we share. But for many men and women the holidays also mean the start of an annual way of life in a state blessed with an abundance of natural resources - hunting season in Alabama.
Just like fall weddings are often planned around college football schedules, many folks, including me, will be planning around the chance to get into a deer stand, flush a covey of birds or later in the spring call up a gobbler. Along with many Alabama families, hunting is a tradition that has been passed down in my family for generations, and one I’m working to protect for generations to come.
And hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation aren’t just a way of life in Alabama -- they’re also a huge part of our economy. According to a recent report from the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association, hunting and fishing had a $3.2 billion dollar impact on Alabama’s economy in 2018. That means more jobs, more revenue and more support for our local economies.
However, as we enter deer season it’s critical to be mindful of things that can pose threats to our bountiful deer population, such as infectious diseases, and to take steps to minimize those threats. For instance, most experts predict that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer and elk, is likely to affect Alabama’s deer populations within the next three to five years. And since whitetail deer are the most popular game animal in Alabama, it’s crucial that we work to combat and slow the spread of CWD by properly treating animal carcasses.
CWD can have long incubation periods in deer. Cases have been reported in 26 states, including our neighbor states, Tennessee and Mississippi. Three Canadian provinces have also been impacted.
As a hunter, the most effective way to prevent Chronic Wasting Disease and protect our game populations is to comply with state guidelines provided by the Alabama Department of Conservation to only bring game meat harvested outside of Alabama into our state if it has been completely deboned. Likewise, skull plates with clean antlers attached from out of state are safe to bring across state lines as long as all the tissue is removed from the animal bones and they are thoroughly cleaned. Finished taxidermy and tanned hides are also safe.
But too little is known about CWD and we have to do more in order to slow this disease and keep our hunting traditions alive for future generations. It is why I have introduced bipartisan legislation to address Chronic Wasting Disease and help prevent the spread of the disease to deer in Alabama. The Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act would increase wildlife managers’ ability to keep wildlife healthy and authorizes a special resource study to determine how CWD could be prevented and how the disease spreads. I am optimistic about getting this legislation passed during this Congress.
But hunting is just part of Alabama’s love with the outdoors. With our abundant coastal and fresh waters and long traditions of fishing, I also know just how important fishing is for folks in our state and for our economy. That’s why during my first year in the Senate I cosponsored the bipartisan Modern Fish Act, which will help resolve problems faced by recreational anglers in the Gulf by updating federal fishing regulations to bring them into the 21st century. After I did some serious cajoling of several of my colleagues on the floor of the Senate last year, the bill passed unanimously and was signed into law by President Trump. And recently, ahead of Red Snapper season and after receiving advice from both charter and recreational fishermen on the Gulf, I introduced bipartisan legislation, the DESCEND Act, to help protect and increase Red Snapper populations in Southern Alabama and improve the health of reef fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico. I am also optimistic about getting this bill passed this Congress.
I love to fish and understand how important it is to manage our fish population, particularly in the Gulf. And as a hunter, I know that the spread of CWD among deer is a threat to a way of life that celebrates hunting and conservation. That’s why I’m proud to be working for One Alabama -- to bring people together and get things done for all Alabamians. And that includes protecting our hunting and fishing traditions and our natural resources.
This holiday season, as we gather with our families and loved ones, let’s remember to give thanks for the abundant natural resources that bless our state, and work together to protect them for future generations.
See you in the woods or on the water.
For more information regarding the legislation discussed in this article, or with ideas regarding future legislation, please contact the office of Senator Jones at 202-224-4124 or visit his website at jones.senate.gov