Legislative Update Graphic

New Legislation Related to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife

​​​​​​​FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 13, 2023) — Permanent public access for a major 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 provisions that relate to or affect the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and services the agency provides to hunters, anglers and the public at large. Bills enacted as an emergency take effect immediately; other legislation goes into effect July 1, 2023.

Senate Bill 241: An act relating to the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, making an appropriation therefor, and declaring an emergency.

​​​The bill affirmed 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 C.F. Ataya Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

The area is owned by C.F. Ataya LLC and managed by the Kentucky chapter of The Nature Conservancy in partnership with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and with support from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.​​​

​​​The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission in June 2022 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, ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, songbirds and other wildlife.

Funding to obtain the easement will come from a special appropriation made by the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly, 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 Foundation’s Acres for America conservation program.​​​

Legislators also removed license and permit exemptions for resident owners of, and others who live or work on, small tracts of farmland. The bill made the following changes:

  • Kentucky resident owners of farmlands of less than 5 acres, their spouses and their dependent children must buy applicable licenses and permits in order to hunt or fish on their farmlands.
  • Tenants, their spouses and their dependent children also must buy applicable licenses and permits in order to hunt or fish on farmlands of less than 5 acres where they reside and work.

Persons to whom these changes apply must be able to show they are properly licensed while hunting or fishing on those properties smaller than 5 acres. Otherwise, they risk being issued a citation.​​​

The bill also removed the requirement that an applicant under the age of 16 get written consent from a parent or legal guardian before applying for a youth statewide hunting license. It does not change the requirement in regulation regarding parents or other adults accompanying youths in the field.​​​

The bill also designated Kentucky Fish and Wildlife as a state purchasing agent and clarified that any contracts available to multiple state agencies for the procurement 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 evaluation and selection committee for engineering and engineering-related services to allow Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to perform its own evaluations of proposals, it defined participation requirements in Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s architectural services and requires the department to promulgate regulations 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, as the 4th District representative on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Cecil was appointed by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Jan. 19, 2023 for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2025.​​​

Three other appointments to the commission – representing the 2nd, 3rd and 8th Districts - were not confirmed by the Senate. Under current law, commission members already in these seats may continue serving through Dec. 31, 2023.​​​

Senate Bill 101: An act relating to peace officer contracts.

​​​This bill amends KRS 16.050 to extend contracts subject to reimbursement for training costs to five years for state law enforcement officers. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officers are included in this provision.

​​​Specifically, it states, “The commissioner may, as a condition of employment, require a newly appointed department conservation officer to enter into an employment contract for a period of no longer than five (5) years from the date of appointment. If a department conservation officer who entered into a contract authorized 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 that are associated with the initial hiring of that department conservation officer, 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 department conservation officer initial application until appointment.”

Senate Bill 20: An act relating to banning social media applications from state government technology and declaring an emergency.​​​

This bill creates a new section of KRS Chapter 61 to prohibit the use or download of TikTok on any state government network or any state government-issued devices and directs the Commonwealth Office of Technology and the legislative branch to implement controls to block access to TikTok on state government-issued devices and on any state government network. Executive branch agencies may use TikTok if necessary for law enforcement activities, civil investigations or civil enforcement activities, or research on security practices and security threats, so long as the agency takes appropriate steps to obtain access without endangering the agency's network, or any network owned, operated, or under the control of state government.​​​

House Bill 64: An act relating to peace officer certification and declaring an emergency.​​​

This bill extends the period of time a peace officer who was employed as a peace officer as of Dec. 1, 1998 may be separated from service before losing his or her certification. The period has been extended from 100 days to 365 days.

Senate Bill 65: An act relating to deficient administrative regulations and declaring an emergency.​​​

Created a new section of KRS Chapter 13A to nullify an administrative regulation and any subsequently filed amendments after that administrative regulation was found deficient during the 2022 legislative interim.​​​

​​​House Bill 144: An act relating to privacy.

​​​This bill created a new section of KRS Chapter 15 to: define terms; provide protections from in-person access to private open land by law enforcement; and require law enforcement to use body-worn cameras and audio devices while on private open land. Conservation officers may continue accessing private land to dispatch crippled, distressed, dangerous or invasive wildlife when necessary; to conduct compliance checks or surveillance based upon a reasonable suspicion; or if property boundaries are unfenced or cannot be reasonably identified.

House Bill 444: An act relating to government agencies, making an appropriation therefor, and declaring an emergency.​​​

This bill provides a 6-percent salary increase for eligible state workers, including all Kentucky Fish and Wildlife employees. This includes employees who are on initial probation. Raises will be effective in July 2023.​​​

House 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 on inactive status for less than one year to return to certification status with no 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, enforcement of laws, and apprehension of 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 partnered with conservation officers.​​​

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