Gov. Jay Nixon today vetoed two bills that would have redefined the term "livestock" to include captive deer in order to eliminate the role of the Missouri Department of Conservation in regulating white-tailed deer. The Governor said those provisions of Senate Bill 506 and House Bill 1326 would go against longstanding successful conservation practices and also would clearly violate the Missouri Constitution, which gives exclusive authority over game and wildlife resources to the Missouri Conservation Commission.
"For more than 75 years, our Department of Conservation has been held up as a model for wildlife management agencies across the country because of its incredible success," Gov. Nixon said. "Redefining deer as livestock to remove the regulatory role of Department defies both its clear record of achievement as well as common sense. White-tailed deer are wildlife and also game animals -- no matter if they're roaming free, or enclosed in a fenced area."
In his veto message, the Governor cites the exclusive authority of the Missouri Conservation Commission provided by the Missouri Constitution under Article IV, Section 40(a). He also said that under the stewardship of the Missouri Department of Conservation, the state's population of white-tailed deer has grown from fewer than 2,000 in the early 1930s to an estimated 1.3 million today, and that the 500,000 deer hunters contribute $1 billion to Missouri's economy.
"Growing and managing our deer herd and fostering the hunting opportunities that we enjoy takes hard work and sound science, and the Department of Conservation should be commended for employing both to preserve this important part of our heritage, not stripped of its authority to do so in order to protect narrow interests," the veto message reads.
Gov. Nixon noted that "it is unfortunate that the legislature insisted on amending this unconstitutional provision to two pieces of legislation that otherwise contain worthy provisions advancing Missouri agriculture."
The Governor discussed his actions on the two bills at a special meeting today of the Missouri Conservation Commission in Columbia.