ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Hundreds of thousands of people hunt, fish, hike, camp, and take part in many other outdoor activities in Virginia every day. Now, there are big things happening in Richmond that could have a major impact on all of those activities as well as everyone who takes part in them.
The Virginia legislature is considering a number of proposals that would affect outdoor sports, especially hunting and fishing.
One of the most-watched issues moving through the legislature would legalize Sunday hunting on public lands in Virginia. A measure introduced by state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), passed the Virginia Senate this week by a 29-11 vote. The bill had widescale bipartisan support. It would open up an extra day of hunting for thousands of people in Virginia who do not have access to private land. Sunday hunting is allowed on private property with the permission of the landowner.
Sen. Petersen’s office says the measure is the right thing for outdoorsmen and women in Virginia.
There is a similar bill moving through the House of Delegates. It is not identical, so if it passes compromises would have to be reached before it could go to the desk of Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
While there is bipartisan agreement on Sunday hunting, there is very little agreement on Youngkin’s nominee to become Secretary of Natural Resources, Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, was head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former President Donald Trump.
Critics say Wheeler tried to dismantle a number of environmental protections while he was at the EPA. There was some question as to whether the Virginia State Senate would confirm him. No cabinet nominee has been rejected by the Virginia Senate for more than a decade. But, because Democrats have only a slight majority in the Senate, it would take only one Democrat to vote with the Republicans to confirm Wheeler.
Following the confirmation hearing Wednesday, Sen. Joseph Morrissey (D-Richmond) said he would be open to considering Wheeler’s confirmation.
“I would say that prior to the meeting yesterday, almost every Democrat was opposed, said Morrissey as he explained his reasoning. “What I said, and what I meant, and what was heartfelt, was that he acquitted himself well, answered questions with specificity, and like everybody, I believe you give people second chances.”
However, Morrissey said he still had not made up his mind on Wheeler’s confirmation and would need more time to study issues surrounding the nomination.
During that hearing Wednesday, Wheeler defended his record at the EPA and pointed to improvements in air quality under his watch as an example. He blamed the media, claiming they did not report his record accurately.
While there is not much agreement on Wheeler, there does appear to be bipartisan support for measures that could provide free or reduced-fee lifetime hunting and fishing licenses for some veterans who are partially disabled.
There is also a bill introduced that could allow hunters to use .22-caliber centerfire ammunition to hunt deer. No action has been taken on that measure, yet.