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OUTDOORS: Water quality, open space high on McAuliffe’s list

VIRGINIA ELECTS a governor next month. Last week, we reported Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s responses to our questions about his positions on outdoors issues. This week, Democrat Terry McAuliffe responds.

The same questions were provided to each campaign and, except for any need to edit for space requirements, these are the direct responses received.

Do you personally hunt and/or fish? If yes, for what species of game and fish and when was the last time you were in the field or on the water?

I’ve been hunting and fishing my entire life. I’ve hunted deer, turkey, quail, pheasant and ducks. The

last time I went hunting

was back in January and the last time I was fishing was with my sons, Jack and Peter, last spring.

What do you see as the most important issue facing Virginia’s hunters? What would you do about it?

I think there are a lot of issues facing Virginia hunters. One that’s gone unresolved for a long time

is the controversy over right-to-retrieve regulations. Hunting with dogs is a time-honored tradition and way of life for many Virginians, but that must be balanced with the rights of property owners. As governor, I will push the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries as it works to bring all the stakeholders together to find common ground.

What do you see as the most important issue facing Virginia’s recreational anglers? What would you do about it?

For many of the anglers I’ve spoken to, the biggest issue is water quality. Fish kills, dead zones, and sewer overflow issues all pose problems. That’s why I

believe we need to work to improve water quality by working to reduce point source and non-point source pollution in keeping with our existing best management practices for agriculture

and our interstate agreements on the bay.

Do you support Sunday hunting in Virginia? Why or why not?

As a hunter and a father of five, I certainly understand the challenge it can be to get away on a Saturday, and so I understand the argument for Sunday hunting. At the same time, I understand Virginians’ concerns about their property, and for the time being I believe we should leave things as they are.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries of Game & Inland Fisheries is funded by sportsmen and women via license sales and a share of federal excise taxes on outdoor related gear. Other Virginians benefit, though, from work with watchable wildlife, birding trails, management of non-game species, law enforcement and more. Should any general funds augment VDGIF’s budget?

As governor, if I received a request from DGIF that details a clear need for increased funding, I would consider including general funds in my response to that request, but I will be completely committed to smart, fiscal management of our state and agencies, and streamlined, efficient use of our resources.

One recommendation from Gov. McDonnell’s governmental reform committee was to assess the merits of consolidating the VDGIF, Virginia Marine Resources Commission, and Department of Conservation and Recreation. What is your opinion of such a merger?

I am committed to streamlining and bringing efficiencies to government; however, I would wait until an assessment was final before making plans to consolidate departments. These groups have complementary but not identical missions, and I wouldn’t want to do anything that could negatively impact their ability to serve the needs of Virginians.

Recent administrations have made open space conservation a priority. Would you continue that effort? If yes, how?

Yes. I have pledged to protect at least 400,000 acres of open space during my term in office. I’ll target environmentally sensitive areas and I’ll make sure that as much preserved land is publicly accessible as possible so all Virginians can take advantage of our natural resources. In any tax reform effort, I will oppose reductions in the Land Preservation Tax Credit because its critical for achieving my goals on open space.

Public access for hunters and anglers is in short supply in Eastern Virginia, where most of the population resides. Riparian landowners are reportedly still placing large tracts of public tidal waters off-limits to other waterfowl hunters by licensing blinds that are never hunted. Some waterways previously considered as “public” are now being posted for “no fishing” due to disputes related to King’s Grants (such as portions of the Jackson River). What could you, and would you, do to improve/protect public access, especially in eastern Virginia?

Property disputes on the Jackson River are certainly unusual. As governor, I would ask my counsel’s office to review relevant court cases and precedents surrounding those deeds. We must strike an appropriate balance to respect Virginian’s property rights and allow appropriate use of our public waterways.

Recreational anglers around the Chesapeake Bay and its Virginia tributaries express concern about sustainable fisheries and water quality. How would your administration address those concerns?

I’m very concerned about water quality both to preserve our natural aquatic resources and because our waterways and the bay are major economic drivers for Virginia. Ensuring that we have healthy budget surpluses so that we’re properly funding the Water Quality Improvement Fund is critically important. Additionally, I think we need to work hard with the agriculture community and the soil

and water conservation

districts to ensure that best management practices are being followed.

Why should Virginia’s hunters and anglers vote for you?

As a sportsman, and as someone who is deeply committed to conservation, I understand that so much of Virginia’s identity comes from its forests and rivers. Hunting and fishing have been responsibly practiced in our commonwealth since its founding and I want to see that tradition continued. That’s why I will work to protect open space, air and water quality, and the rights of all Virginians to enjoy and make use of them.

Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or email at