What the heck is the Legislature doing?
Pete Zimowsky/Idaho Statesman
Thereīs some stuff in the Idaho Legislature that smells like dead fish rotting on the lake shore on a hot August day.
OK, maybe thatīs a kinder and gentler way to say that some of the proposed legislation this year stinks.
The bills seem like they were designed to rip off sportsmen, plunder Idaho Fish and Game funds, which come from sportsmenīs license fees, to put more controls on Fish and Game, and also to weaken wildlife laws.
If employees in the private sector came up with ideas like this, they would be fired for wasting time and money and also for conflict of interest. Legislators are employees of taxpayers, in a sense.
If youīre a hunter, angler or love the outdoors, you should call your legislator to say you donīt like the following proposed legislation. Itīs the typical Fish-and-Game-bashing legislation that comes up every year.
The We Donīt Care About Poaching Bill (HB 278) This would reduce the penalty for poaching a moose to a misdemeanor.
Huh? Does the Legislature want to undo all the strides made in the anti-poaching campaign to make it more attractive to illegally kill one of the stateīs premier game animals?
This measure would send a message that the Legislature doesnīt give a hoot about poaching.
The Do Away With Game Wardens Bill (HB 277) This one would eliminate F&G law enforcement and move that responsibility to the Idaho State Police. Just try to figure this one out.
The state police are dedicated to making Idahoīs roads and highways safer for motorists. Thereīs a good feeling, knowing that troopers are out there and will come to your aid when you need it. Thatīs a big job.
They donīt need the added responsibility of chasing all over the mountains looking for poachers and Fish and Game law violators.
Besides, Fish and Game has about 90 well-trained conservation officers. They are educated in wildlife biology and certified in law enforcement. They are doing a tremendous job protecting the stateīs wildlife.
As a hunter and an angler, I want the dollars from my hunting and fishing license fees to stay with Fish and Game for law enforcement and not transferred to another state agency.
Let Fish and Game enforce hunting and fishing laws. This is a no-brainer.
The We Donīt Care If You Have A Place to Hunt and Fish Bill (HB 252) Its subtitle should be The Anti-Wildlife Habitat Bill.
In its initial state, the bill would have prohibited Fish and Game from acquiring more land around the state.
In a time when wildlife habitat is disappearing under pavement, shopping centers and housing developments, the Legislature shouldnīt be trying to curtail Fish and Gameīs ability to obtain property and make it a wildlife management area or public hunting area.
Public access is a key issue when it comes to hunting and fishing in Idaho. I invite any legislator to go out hunting with me at Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area near Parma during duck and pheasant season and see how busy it is and how overcrowded it can be.
Thereīs a need for more public hunting grounds.
When this legislation was proposed, it sent a message that Idahoīs lawmakers donīt care about providing more public access, public hunting grounds and wildlife habitat.
And donīt use the lame excuse that the property is taken off the tax roles when it is owned by Fish and Game.
If legislators would do some research, they would know that Fish and Game makes payments in lieu of taxes that, in some cases, are more than if the land was in agriculture.
Since fiscal year 1992, Fish and Game has paid $1.9 million in payments to counties for its property.
The proposal also would have limited private property rights. It basically wouldnīt let property owners sell their land to Fish and Game.
The House Resources committee this week scaled back the bill to only restrict Fish and Game land purchases in counties that border a foreign country. Thatīs Boundary County.
What a fiasco. What a waste of time.
The Pay Me More Money Bill (HB 209) Subtitle this, Sportsmenīs Funds Are Easy Pickings.
This is a bill to change the stateīs depredation law.
The depredation system, where sportsmenīs funds compensate farmers and ranchers for damage done by wildlife, has been working OK.
Thereīs an advisory committee that keeps tabs on the program.
Some sportsmen, who are the watchdogs of the Legislature, are afraid that the proposed legislation is an end run around the committee to pay out more claims and more money for depredation.
It is being called another avenue to redirect sportsmen funds to benefit others, not wildlife.
Call (800) 626-0471 and leave a message for your legislator that you are tired of bills like these.
The right move
OK, the Legislature did the right thing this week.
It dropped the controversial coyote control project in eastern Idaho.
The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee dumped the $300,000 project that mandated Fish and Game to kill coyotes in Unit 69.
The project had no scientific basis and was a way to plunder Fish and Gameīs funds.
Good riddance to a boondoggle.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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