Despite talk of relaxing some of the current coronavirus prevention measures, the unprecedented slowdown in our economy and drastic changes in our present and possibly future lifestyle are creating ripples and waves touching every facet of our experience.

For the first time in its 65-year history, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canadian Wildlife Service and their state partners have cancelled their Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey. This survey, which relies on extensive aerial observation of waterfowl in their breeding and nesting grounds, has been used to assess populations of various duck and goose species and to make recommendations for hunting seasons and harvest limits.

According to Ducks Unlimited, duck season regulations are based on the status of mallards in the Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyways and on the status of four species (green-winged teal, common goldeneye, wood duck and ring-necked duck) in the Atlantic Flyway.

The survey cancellation won’t affect the 2020-21 hunting season because regulations proposed for the that season were based on surveys from the 2019 breeding season. For the 2021–2022 general duck seasons, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service will use the long-term data and models to predict how abundant ducks were this spring. That prediction will help determine seasons and bag limits for the 2021-2022 season.

Also cancelled were the American Woodcock Singing-ground Survey, Mid-continent Population Sandhill Crane Survey and Arctic Goose Banding Program.

Money Flowing to Fisheries

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Virginia fisheries will receive $4.5 million in disaster relief funding as part of the $300 million Congress appropriated for impacts due to COVID-19. The funding was part of the Corona Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

In a release by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Matthew J. Strickler, Virginia’s secretary of natural resources, expressed displeasure at the limited dollars, noting, “We are greatly disappointed in the amount of disaster funding Virginia received. This funding falls woefully short of even beginning to address the devastating impacts fisheries and aquaculture businesses have suffered due to COVID-19 … The Administration must release more funding to help our coastal communities and businesses.”

Virginia’s commercial fisheries and recreational charter boat operators have been hit hard by the economic slowdown associated with COVID-19. The money will flow through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Exactly how it will be dispersed among affected anglers is being determined.

“We will work to swiftly develop a plan to use this funding to address the economic impacts due to COVID-19 and identify opportunities to improve the resiliency of our fisheries and fishing businesses,” said VMRC Commissioner Steven G. Bowman.

Gun Sales Spiking

Times of uncertainty always seem to pique citizen interest in ensuring their own protection. This includes owning firearms.

Gun sales in April were up about 70 percent from the previous year, with an estimated 1,797,910 guns sold last month. March sales were even higher, with 2,583,238 firearms sold.

The statistics were provided by Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting and reported by the National Shooting Sports Association, the firearm industry’s trade association. Recent purchasers were favoring handguns over long guns according to the data.

Mark Oliva, NSSF director of public affairs, said, “These figures show us that Americans continue to take responsibility for their own safety, especially during times of uncertainty. That’s not without reason, even in Virginia. The same Virginia lawmakers who earlier this year passed unprecedented restrictions on law-abiding Virginians to purchase, keep and bear arms, allowed criminals to be released back into communities before completing sentences.”

Oliva said Virginia saw in April more than 64,500 background checks completed for the sale of a firearm, compared to 33,700 a year ago.

“Taken together with March’s background check figures, that tops 147,000 in the Old Dominion,” he added. “That is the result of Virginians who are no longer view firearm owners as matter of rhetorical debate, but as a matter of being able to provide defense for themselves and their loved ones.”

The NSSF also released a report showing how much the firearms and ammunition industry has grown since 2008. Total economic impact is calculated at $60 billion, up 213% since 2008. The total economic impact of the firearm and ammunition industry in the United States increased from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $60 billion in 2019, a 213-percent increase. The total number of full-time-equivalent jobs rose from approximately 166,000 to over 332,000, according to the report.

Virginia is listed as one of the top five states in terms of firearms industry-related growth in jobs and economic output, with 6,595 direct, supplier-related or induced jobs and a nearly $1.3 billion total impact.

Many firearms-related companies have stepped up in terms of helping with COVID-19 response. Ruger, for example, donated thousands of masks, Tyvek suits, safety glasses and more to hospitals, nursing homes, police, fire and first responder departments, as well as donating $6,000 to local food charities. The company also redeployed some of its manufacturing resources to build 1,600 face shields for local hospitals and first responders.

Great America Outdoors Act

Even though the work of Congress seems to have slowed to a crawl, except for emergency measures, a new piece of bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate by 57 senators including Virginia’s Mark Warner.

Senate Bill 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act, will provide $9.5 billion over 5 years to address $12 billion in public land maintenance backlogs, with nearly $3 billion reserved for lands and waters important to sportsmen and women. The bill also provides $900 million annually in permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Warner’s website lists the full list of backlogged work in Virginia, more than $1.1 billion in 2019. Among the list are the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields, with $12,688,403 in deferred maintenance last year; the George Washington Birthplace National Monument at $1,648,576; and the Blue Ridge Parkway with a whopping $212,702,891.

According to Safari Club International, 43 sportsmen conservation groups, including SCI, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation have endorsed the bill.

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