Rhode Island Lawmakers Pull Bill to Allow Hunting of Exotic Wildlife

Published August 6, 2018

Under pressure from anti-hunting groups and animal rights activists, Rhode Island lawmakers pulled a bill that would have allowed hunting of animals imported into the state on large private preserves.

Sponsored by state Sen. Frank Lombardo (D–Johnston) and state Rep. Stephen Ucci (D–Johnston), S2929 and H8090, titled “Relating to Fish and Wildlife—Field Trials and Shooting Preserves,” would have allowed any hunting preserve of 500 acres or larger to “permit the taking of animals other than domestic game birds” if the hunters purchased a license and complied with all other state hunting requirements.

The Preserve at Boulder Hills, an exclusive outdoor sporting club in Richmond, Rhode Island, had promoted the bill. It was hoping to import elk, and possibly wild hogs and other nonnative game, for its members to hunt.

Under current law, preserves can import some game animals, with a permit from the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM), but hunting them is not allowed.

Once Native, Now Imports

Elk were native to the northeastern United States before European colonization but were hunted to extinction throughout the region.

Using animals relocated from western states, Pennsylvania and Kentucky have reestablished wild elk herds and allow limited hunting. Game preserves in Maine, New York, Tennessee, and some other states where elk were extirpated allow the hunting of privately owned elk, wild boar, and other exotic species.

Anti-hunting and animal rights groups objected to the Rhode Island bill.

The DEM stated it had not been consulted before the bill was introduced, and department officials expressed concern importing elk from western states could spread chronic wasting disease to Rhode Island’s whitetail deer population.

Although other states that reestablished elk herds have not experienced that problem, Lombardo and Ucci pulled their respective bills on June 5, committing to work with DEM to satisfy its concerns.

“[We will work] to make sure we have the House and DEM on board,” Lombardo told the Providence Journal. “We will see if we can move forward on it in the next few weeks, and if not, over the summer for next year.”

Activists’ Success

The withdrawal of the bill is another case of progressive activists blocking property rights and economic opportunity, says Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

“Once again, politically-correct-driven progressives have infringed on the rights of private property owners, this time at the Preserve at Boulder Hills, a high-end, highly respected operation,” Stenhouse said. “Because of a small number of vocal activists, The Preserve has been denied this opportunity to expand their business, which could establish our state as a destination location for big-game hunters, a thriving industry in other states across America.

“H8090 and S2929 would have allowed the hunting of imported wildlife with appropriate state licensing, yet the progressive Left has struck yet another blow to our state’s economic development prospects by forcing the legislation to be withdrawn this year.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.

Official Connections:

State Sen. Frank Lombardo (D-Johnston): http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/senators/Lombardo/default.aspx; [email protected]

State Rep. Stephen Ucci (D-Johnston): http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/representatives/Ucci/Pages/Biography.aspx; [email protected]