- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Do you remember our column April 27 about a would-be shooting-center operator who claimed that if his business plans were not OK’d by the Nelson County, Va., supervisors, it would violate everybody’s right to hunt?

Attorneys for Orion Estates, the outfit that planned to have a business that would provide clay target shooting, among other things, said if Orion was denied a conditional use permit, it would be a danger to the hunting community because clay target shooting is an integral part of the overall hunting experience.

However, Nelson County Circuit Judge Michael Gamble recently ruled the county did not violate Virginia’s constitutional right to hunt by denying the private hunting reserve the right to open its target shooting range. Gamble said operating a shooting center was not part of the state’s constitutional right to “hunt, fish and harvest game.”

The reason the Nelson County supervisors denied a business permit for Orion to run a target shooting range on its private 450-acre hunting preserve along the James River was its concern over excessive noise and the county’s existing zoning laws. When the county rejected the application, Orion sued.

Gamble said he agreed with the plaintiff that Virginians have the right to hunt, fish and harvest game under the state constitution, but in his decision he wrote, “This right, just as all constitutional rights, does have limitations. It is not limitless, infinite, and without bounds.”

The judge noted that target shooting was not hunting because the recognized, traditional definition of hunting was the pursuit of game.

Orion’s lawsuit argued that the right to hunt extended to activities like hunter education, training and practicing.

Menhaden meeting tonight — Here’s the final reminder from the Coastal Conservation Association’s Maryland and Virginia divisions that a public hearing will be held tonight at 6:30 at the Potomac River Fisheries Commission headquarters in Colonial Beach, Va. It’s all about placing a cap on the commercial menhaden fishery.

The menhaden population that provides the primary food base for all the Chesapeake’s predator fish, including stripers, bluefish, sea trout, channel bass and cobia, have declined tremendously and now the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is poised to place the first-ever cap on the industrial menhaden fishery’s landings. The ASMFC will accept public comment regarding Addendum II to the Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management Plan. After receiving public input, the Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will take action during meetings Aug. 15-18 in Alexandria.

However, one of the options (No. 1, in fact) is to maintain the status quo — no cap on the harvest of Atlantic menhaden. If you don’t want to see this option adopted, please get involved and provide your comment. Attend tonight’s hearing, or write before Aug. 1, to Nancy Wallace, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 1444 Eye St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. E-mail: [email protected] or fax: 202/289-6051.

Hunting being protected — Two states recently have passed laws to ensure public hunting land will always remain open to hunting. In Maryland, HB 1086, the Hunting Heritage Protection Act, directs the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to manage state land to prevent the loss of available hunting parcels. This “no net loss” directive requires the opening of compensatory huntable land if an area is closed to the sport. It was signed by Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed similar legislation in May. Georgia Senate Bill 206 was amended to include language that ensures no net loss of hunting lands. The bill states, “To the greatest practical extent, department land management decisions and actions shall not result in any net loss of land acreage available for hunting opportunities on department managed state owned lands.”

For additional information, see the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Web site, ussportsmen.org.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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