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Delaware lawmakers create Sportsmen's Caucus

Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers are forming a bipartisan, bicameral caucus to protect the rights of hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen in Delaware.


The Delaware Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus will seek to balance rights for those traditional activities with habitat and wildlife conservation.


Clayton Republican Rep. Jeff Spiegelman says they don't have a set legislative agenda yet, but they’re working on one:


"Making sure that the public has access to hunting and fishing on public grounds, making sure that programs that promote proper wildlife management and hunting safety and things like that, are a priority in the state of Delaware," Spiegelman says.


That's not to say they aren't already, he says --


"But to have a forum like this where we can put legislators, regulators and the general public in the same place to talk about these issues, has proven very successful in red and blue states around the country in promoting hunting and fishing," Spiegelman says.


He points to a bill last session that aimed to correct inconsistencies around handgun use in farmland hunting. He says it was met with undue skepticism just because of its content, and he hopes the new caucus will help offset some of those issues.


His caucus co-chairs are Republican Sen. Brian Pettyjohn of Georgetown, plus Rep. William Carson and Sen. Bruce Ennis. They're both moderate Smyrna Democrats who have sided with Republican colleagues on some gun rights issues in the past. Carson also sits on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Neither Democrat was available for comment.


The four legislators join 2,000 others nationwide who are part of similar caucuses. Delaware is the 48th state to form one -- with only Rhode Island and Hawaii left out. Those states put a focus on fishing, but Spiegelman says deer and bird hunts are important in Delaware, too.


He says they've reached out to legislators on both sides of the aisle about joining the caucus. It plans to meet at least once before the 2016 session begins, then meet monthly on different sporting issues throughout the year.


This story has been updated.