By TANNE STEWART, Associated PressTexas’ state-managed hunting lease program has been plagued by problems since the beginning, but that will be about to change.
Greg Abbott said in a news conference Thursday that state agencies would no longer issue hunting leases under a bill signed by Abbott in March.
The new law makes hunting lease purchases and rentals a state business, but only those that have been authorized by a federal agency.
The legislation does not address the issue of hunting leases ending up in the hands of state agencies.
It only provides that state departments that renew hunting leases must comply with all federal and state laws.
State agencies could still issue hunting licenses, however, Abbott said.
The law applies to hunting leases issued after January 2018.
Abbott has not yet released details of the legislation, but he has indicated he wants to ensure the law is enforced.
Texas hunters say the state’s hunting industry has been damaged by the shortage of hunters and the state has lost millions in federal and other revenue from hunting.
A number of companies, including a number of state government agencies, have been sued by hunters and other businesses for not meeting hunting lease requirements, including one of the largest and oldest companies in Texas.
Hunters and others who use the state to hunt say that the law has not helped them and the industry is at risk.
State lawmakers last month passed legislation that expanded the leasing process.
The bill also provided that hunting leases may not be renewed if the department that issued them fails to comply with federal and local laws and regulations.
Abby said the bill would end the leasing issue that has been plaguing the hunting industry since it began in the early 1990s.
He said the law would also end a federal law that made hunting leases a state enterprise.
The hunting industry, which has been in a downturn since the mid-1990s, is still reeling from the loss of millions of dollars in federal hunting tax revenue.
Hunting is a state-run business and Abbott’s action is a significant step forward in ending the issue, said Steve Anderson, president of the Texas Hunting Association.
The Texas Association of Rifle and Shotgun Owners, which represents about 400,000 hunting owners, has not had an opportunity to review the bill.
But, Anderson said, the association would review the new law if it becomes law.