FRANKFURT — Permanent public access to a larger wildlife management area in eastern Kentucky, elimination of a license exemption for small properties and confirmation of a new member of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission are among the resulting actions of the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly.
The following summarizes regulations that relate to or affect the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and services the agency provides to hunters, anglers and the general public. Bills passed as an emergency take effect immediately; other legislation enters into force on 1 July.
Senate Bill 241: An act of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources making an appropriation therefor and declaring an emergency.
The bill reaffirmed Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s authority to obtain a permanent public access easement for the more than 54,000 acres in Bell, Knox and Leslie counties currently known as the CF Ataya Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
The area is owned by CF Ataya LLC and managed by the Kentucky Division of The Nature Conservancy in cooperation with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and with support from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
In June 2022, the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the establishment of the permanent easement, which will ensure public access for current and future generations of hunters and wildlife watchers to enjoy elk, deer, bear, grouse, bobwhite quail, songbirds and other wildlife.
Funding to obtain the easement will come from a special appropriation made by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2022 and from the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration grant program. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was instrumental in securing a grant for the project through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundations Acres for America Conservation Program.
Lawmakers also removed license and permit exemptions for permanent owners of, and others who live or work on, small tracts of agricultural land. The bill contained the following changes:
- Kentucky resident owners of farmland of less than 5 acres, their spouses and their dependent children must purchase applicable licenses and permits to hunt or fish on their farmland.
- Tenants, their spouses and their dependent children must also purchase applicable licenses and permits to hunt or fish on agricultural lands of less than 5 acres where they live and work.
Persons to whom these amendments apply must be able to demonstrate that they are properly licensed while hunting or fishing on the properties less than 5 acres. Otherwise, they risk being issued a citation.
The bill also removed the requirement that an applicant under the age of 16 obtain written consent from a parent or guardian before applying for a statewide youth hunting license. This does not change the requirement in the regulation for parents or other adults accompanying young people in the area.
The bill also designated Kentucky Fish and Wildlife as a state procurement agent and specified that all contracts available to multiple state agencies for the purchase of goods or services must also be available to the department, including but not limited to electronic access to the statewide accounting system . In addition, it also created a mechanism and process for the formation of an engineering and engineering-related services evaluation and selection committee to allow Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to conduct its own evaluations of proposals, it defined participation requirements in Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s architectural services, and requires the department to promulgate rules to implement procedures for the procurement of engineering services.
Senate Resolution 160: A resolution confirming the appointment of Gregory Wade Cecil to the Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission.
The Senate confirmed the appointment of Gregory Wade Cecil of Munfordville to represent the 4th District on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Cecil was appointed by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear on January 19, 2023 for a term expiring December 31, 2025.
Three other appointments to the commission — representing the 2nd, 3rd and 8th districts — were not confirmed by the Senate. Under current law, commissioners already in those seats can continue to serve until December 31, 2023.
Senate Bill 101: An act relating to peace officer contracts.
This bill amends KRS 16.050 to extend training cost reimbursement contracts to five years for state law enforcement agencies. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers are included in this provision.
Specifically, it says: “As a condition of employment, the Commissioner may require that a newly appointed department conservator enter into an employment contract for a period of no more than five (5) years from the date of employment. If a conservator who has entered into a contract approved under this subsection accepts employment as a peace officer with another law enforcement agency, that law enforcement agency shall reimburse the department for the actual costs incurred and expended by the department in connection with the initial employment of this department’s conservator, including, but not limited to, the application process, training costs, equipment costs, salary and fringe benefits. The department shall be reimbursed for the costs from the time of the first application for a departmental preservation officer to the appointment.”
Household bill 64: An act relating to peace officer certification and declaration of an emergency.
This bill extends the period of time that a peace officer who was employed as a peace officer as of December 1, 1998, may be separated from the service before he or she loses his or her certification. The period has been extended from 100 days to 365 days.
Household bill 373: An act relating to peace officer certification.
This bill amends various portions of Chapter 15 as it relates to peace officers in Kentucky and allows an officer who has been inactive for less than one year to return to certification status without additional training requirements. The bill also redefines several key terms in the chapter.
House bill 115: An act relating to service animals.
This bill expands the definition of service animal to include “police dog” as “any dog owned or employed by a law enforcement agency as defined in KRS 61.298 for
the purpose of detecting criminal activity, enforcing laws, and apprehending offenders.” Assault on a service animal in the first degree is a Class D felony.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife currently has three K-9 service dogs that work with conservation officers.
House bill 144: An act relating to privacy.
This bill created a new section in KRS Chapter 15 to: define terms; provide protection against personal access to private open land by law enforcement; and requires police to use body-worn cameras and audio devices while on private open land. Conservation officers may continue to access private land to dispatch crippled, distressed, dangerous or invasive wildlife when necessary; to conduct compliance checks or monitoring based on reasonable suspicion; or whose property boundaries are unfenced or cannot reasonably be identified.
Senate Bill 20: An action related to banning social media applications from government technology and declaring an emergency.
This bill creates a new section of KRS Chapter 61 that prohibits the use or download of TikTok on any government network or government-issued device and directs the Commonwealth Office of Technology and the legislative branch to implement controls to block access to TikTok on government-issued devices and on any government network. Executive branch agencies may use TikTok if necessary for law enforcement activities, civil investigations or civil enforcement activities, or research into security practices and security threats, as long as the agency takes appropriate steps to gain access without jeopardizing the agency’s network or any owned network. operated or under the control of the State Government.
House bill 444: An act relating to government agencies making a grant thereto and declaring an emergency.
This bill provides a 6 percent pay increase for eligible state workers, including all Kentucky Fish and Wildlife employees. This includes employees who are on probation. Increases will take effect in July 2023.
Senate Bill 65: An action concerning deficient administrative regulations and declaring an emergency.
Created a new section of KRS Chapter 13A to void an administrative regulation and any subsequently filed amendments after the administrative regulation was found deficient during the 2022 legislative period.