By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Before the first meetings are held and the first arguments are heard, the chairs of the wildlife, fisheries and parks committees in the state legislature know they’ll be tackling subjects that touch on deep-seated traditions and bring forth hotly inspired debate. That’s why this year’s chairmen say it’s an honor to serve.
Sen. Giles Ward, from Louisville and Rep. Scott Bounds, from Philadelphia, each say the fact they grew up with both feet in the outdoors gives them common ground with the people and the subjects that will find themselves before their committees this spring.
Even with the legislative session just under way, bills assigned to their committees so far include measures that would create a spring squirrel season, require personal floatation device wear on everyone aboard boats smaller than 26 feet while the boats are under power, charge an annual $25 fee for hog hunting and offer a sales tax holiday on hunting supplies during the weekend before Labor Day.
A lifelong hunter and a steward of a wildlife-rich tract of family land since 2000, Ward says his concerns for the outdoors and his judgment as committee chairman are grounded in the same earth as the issues over which his committee will preside.
honor taken seriously
“As a lifelong sportsman I’m honored by the opportunity,” Ward said, “and I don’t bring any agenda with me at all.”
In a similar vein, Bounds said he hopes to direct his committee in the house along the lines of three key objectives this session.
“I want to protect the resource, enhance the opportunities to enjoy it, and leave it better than we found it,” Bounds said. “The biggest thing, the first objective, is protecting the resource. The wild resources in Mississippi are so abundant, and they’re among the most valuable resources we have. Everything we do going forward must first do no harm. Next, I want us to look at the opportunities to get people involved in hunting and fishing, and for keeping them there.
“I don’t want to make enjoying the outdoors restrictive or over-regulated but, in the same line, it’s critical we make sure the resource is protected.”
Like Ward, Bounds noted the passion that lies at the core of those who bring matters before his committee, and said as an outdoorsman himself he knows why that’s so.
“I’ve lived here in Philadelphia and Neshoba County all my life,” he said. “I remember vividly days spent with a .22 rifle or a .410 shotgun roaming the woods. I love to hunt and fish, and I primarily do all of that on our family land. It’s something very special to me. I’ve been involved in the outdoors all my life.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m an expert on all the issues, but bearing the three principals in mind, I’m going to do the very best I can for all of us in the state who love the outdoors.”