With the New York State Conservation Council’s 2020 Virtual Fall Convention now complete, I would like to offer the following report. Minutes and other correspondence will offer more details later.
This year’s convention was held using Zoom. Invitations were sent out via email, social media, and the NYSCC website. The Zoom meeting was live from 9:30AM to around 4:00PM. Participants connected via phone and computer, and the quality was excellent. There was a couple who had problems in signing on. I think all but one problem was solved. Nate Kennedy did a great job navigating Zoom and seeing that all guest speakers were able to access our meeting.
Attendance varied during the meeting going from a low of 29 to around 35 +/-. Thirty two voting entities were represented. Numbers were close to a normal convention attendance. I have received many comments, including:
- I just wanted to commend you guys an running a great Zoom conference today. Thank you very much for the effort you put into this.
- Just wanted to say good job on the meeting. Thanks.
- Well done! Excellent. My kudos to all that were involved! Long day in my office and on the phone but it was one of the best “annual meetings” I have been involved in over many years. It is always good to meet in person but this was a well-orchestrated and run alternative. My thanks to all involved in setting this up and running it!!!
- Great Job.
- Not having to travel 300 plus miles for a meeting and have a quality presentation is a real plus.
Reports by NYSDEC, NY Council of Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and our Marine Resources Chairman were well received. It could be stated that there was a common theme of collaboration and identifying common goals that the Council shares with these groups.
Report from Tony Wilkinson, Director, NYSDEC Fish & Wildlife Division
DEC is working under a state fiscal crisis due to COVID-19, and many staff have been working remotely. Doug Stang retired this spring. Wilkinson mentioned a renewed interest in hunting and angling statewide.
* Hunting Education Classes – DEC was able to offer an on-line hunter-ed course and results were great. Nearly 89,000 people took the course, and almost 49,000 new hunters were certified. On-line bow hunting course had good results as well, with 19,000 people completing the bow course.
* New Electronic Licensing System – went on-line in June for fishing and in August for hunting. Had some initial problems, but should be up & running by October.
* Challenges – EHD, a viral disease of white-tailed deer carried by biting midges, was confirmed in Putnam and Orange counties;
DEC is staying vigilant on potential CWD outbreaks;
Rabbit disease has hit domestic pet trade – could infect wild rabbit populations;
DEC to release state deer management plan shortly;
DEC has hired Joelle Ernst as new Deputy Commissioner for Public Outreach;
Sean Mahar has filled DEC position for looking at hunter access on both private and public lands.
Report from Steve Hurst, Director, NYSDEC Fisheries Division
Division has operated under adaptive management due to COVID-19 issues. The division has lost 2 regional fisheries biologists.
* Stocking Activities – despite COVID-19 issues, DEC managed to stock trout this past spring early and often. Got fish out despite not being able to use volunteers.
* Charter Boat program – access to DEC launch sites was an issue, along with COVID-19 restrictions, but program eventually got underway statewide.
* Draft Trout Stream Management Plan – statewide plan is being finalized soon. DEC is working on regulations for plan implementation. Where possible and having the proper resources there is a push for conversion for some streams to go from stocked to wild fish populations.
* Fishing Education Programs – Has been a 15 percent increase in fishing license sales this year. Retaining anglers is a principal aim.
* Great Lakes Fishery – Plan to issue regulation changes for black bass. Intend to simplify and reduce state regs where possible.
* DEC is looking at possible changes in regulations on panfish.
* Fishing Access – Working on new fishing access sites, and built a number of new DEC boat launches, including for Otisco and Onondaga Lakes.
Caledonia Hatchery Improvements – Project is ahead of schedule and looking good.
Jim Farquhar Director NYSDEC Division of Wildlife
* Holiday Hunt Proposal – DEC has received 1300 comments on proposed extension for deer hunting season. Most are positive. (Still time for individuals to comment. NYSCC currently poling membership.)
* Wildlife Management Regulations being updated, to be released soon.
* WMA Habitat Management Plans are under DEC review.
* Hunt Safe Effort – social outreach efforts are underway.
Larry Charette , with New York Council of Trout Unlimited
Mentioned that public fishing rights were acquired on numerous streams across NY State in 1951. 2020 is 61st anniversary of Trout Unlimited’s founding. Some of T.U. major projects in recent years include the Battenkill Rivers Initiative, Oatka Creek Conservation, and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.
Charette recommends that local Trout Unlimited chapters should become members of county sportsmen’s federations.
Virginia Glazier, with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
BHA organization defends stream access, promotes increased hunter and angler access to public lands, and advocates for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Has a legacy of defending public lands and habitat conservation. They have a relatively young membership compared to most local fishing and hunting clubs, which influences how they reach out to the public.
New York Chapter (statewide) focus includes stream access, R3 initiatives, and goal of increasing diversity and inclusion.
NYBHA is an state chapter that has no office or paid staff, but they do have state coordinators in NYSDEC regions.
Charles Witek, chairman, Marine Resources Committee
Witek noted that salt water fisheries management is more complex than DEC’s management of freshwater fisheries. It’s a combination of state and federal agencies, along with regional agencies such as the Atlantic States Fisheries Management Council, and even international agencies for regulation of tuna stocks.
Managing fisheries for abundance is a major goal of the commercial fishing interests, which may conflict with desires of recreational anglers relative to striped bass, bluefish, and other species. The American Saltwater Guides Association promotes a goal of greater game fish numbers. (Per NOAA NYS has 2,625 of marine shoreline [statue] miles. https://coast.noaa.gov/data/docs/states/shorelines.pdf)
Rebuild 2020 Report – Entering its second year. As reported, it has the principles we need to operate by, to ensure the success of our rebuild efforts. The topics mentioned include fighting apathy, increasing awareness, need for fundraising, participation and being productive. We are moving in the right direction for growth and representing sportsmen and women, conservationists, and those that enjoy the outdoors. Some of our accomplishments over the past year are; a new website, new social media, improved article quality of Grassroots News, new infographic capabilities, new legislative bill tracking technologies, new partners, and increased recognitions by those that share our common goals. The efforts and direction of this report can be further captured at https://oswegocountysportsmensfoundation.com/2020-fall-convention
Finance Report: With COVID-19 came some financial concerns, similar to other years. With 4th Quarter billing to go out and 4th quarter donations we look toward ending 2020 OK.
Legislative Concerns: 2020 was a unique year when it came to following legislation. Our normal monitoring of legislation peaks in mid-June. This year there was no normal peak of activity. While sparse now we are seeing some activity which we shall continue to monitor.
End of Year Reports– There are to date four end of year reports submitted for Firearms, Small Game, Hunter Education, and myself that will be put out in a subsequent email and made available on the website. https://oswegocountysportsmensfoundation.com/2020-fall-convention
Resolutions: There was not a successfully completed resolutions submitted this year.
Elections: All incumbents were reelected as they ran unopposed.
Post-Convention BOD Meeting: Needs to be held soon to insure the required appointed positions are filled. This meeting will be followed by additional meetings to discuss present and future business practices.
Conclusion: With COVID-19 and everything else against us we had an excellent meeting. Some thought that this couldn’t be done, but we did it. Thanks to everyone that participated. A special thanks to Nate Kennedy and Keith Tidball for handling the logistics and operation of Zoom.
President, New York State Conservation Council