Other views: Innuendos in hunting editorial untrue, unfair
By Daniel A. Bueide
The Forum - 07/10/2002
The July 2 Forum editorial endorsing North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven's 30,000 nonresident waterfowl cap is the latest example of the editorial staff's consistent pro-tourism, anti-resident hunter stance. Several statements and innuendos in the editorial are untrue and unfair.
First, most resident hunters don't dislike or even remotely underestimate the economic value of nonresident hunters. We eat lunch with nonresidents in cafes, have a beer and joke with them in bars, sleep in the hotel room next to them and hunt with them the next morning. However, the quality of hunting has significantly deteriorated as the number of nonresident hunters has spiraled out of control the past few years. We are not anti-nonresident or anti-tourism, we are simply looking for some moderation and compromise.
A fixed cap, regardless of the number, is worthless. Resident and nonresident hunter numbers have fluctuated greatly in the last 10 years. General climate conditions have remained fairly constant during that time, but we all remember the significantly different climate cycle and waterfowl numbers experienced immediately before then. Even if you agree that 30,000 is a good number today, it is irrelevant from a pressure management perspective if, say, resident hunter numbers increase or decrease by 10,000 or dry conditions return.
At Hoeven's direction, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department developed several cap concepts for consideration by all. One of them, the Hunter Pressure Concept, is brilliant in that it uses 25 years of data to set the number of nonresident licenses based upon current climate conditions and the most current number of resident hunters. It seeks to reasonably maximize the resource each year, giving preference to residents but making all excess capacity available to nonresidents. Under the HPC, pressure remains constant despite many variables and the historic tourism pipeline is filled by varying proportions of residents and nonresidents.
The HPC has been endorsed by many resident hunters as a reasonable and fair compromise. Game and Fish Director Dean Hildebrand also recommended the HPC to Hoeven for setting this year's cap. The HPC would have yielded a nonresident cap this year of approximately 22,000.
This leads to my greatest disappointment with The Forum's editorial. A little homework and more consistent coverage of these issues would have made it apparent that more than a few, isolated, vocal sportsmen's group members are unhappy with Hoeven's recent decision. In addition to Hildebrand and his staff, most North Dakota waterfowlers also favor caps significantly below the level set by Hoeven. The large number of rank-and-file North Dakota hunters attending the March district advisory meetings expressed overwhelming sentiment against the early pheasant opener and in favor of waterfowl caps. At the Casselton meeting, for example, upon asking for a show of hands, all but a dozen of the nearly 300 attendees favored a nonresident cap. This almost universal sentiment was verified in responses to the recent Game and Fish questionnaire, where the majority of resident hunters advocated a cap of 20,000 or lower.
About 34,000 (or approximately 5 percent) North Dakotans hunted waterfowl last year. Admittedly, then, only a relatively small percentage of North Dakotans were most adversely affected by the governor's recent decision. But, it is patently unfair and untrue to say that only a few vocal sportsman's group members support a much lower cap and are disappointed by the governor's decision. The vast majority of 34,000 North Dakotans would strongly disagree. It is The Forum's prerogative to disagree with the views held by a majority of North Dakota waterfowlers, but please don't report that only a small number of us or only those tied to sportsmen's groups dislike Hoeven's recent decision.
Finally, please consider a different perspective on economic development. In North Dakota we have: clean air, low crime, good schools, elbow room and the best combination waterfowl and upland hunting resource in the nation. We don't have: beaches, mountains, lakes, the greatest climate or high paying jobs. People make decisions on which state to call home based upon lifestyle factors. North Dakota can't compete with states having the types of amenities most people favor.
Believe it or not, however, the quality of hunting that existed a few short years ago was one of the primary factors that caused some current residents to move or stay here. Our current resource management policy does little to encourage those who sample our resource each fall to relocate here permanently. Why move to (or back to) North Dakota if you can earn double the wage, and for a license costing about $100, hunt North Dakota waterfowl for 14 days and upland birds as many days as you like? Further, if the hunting resource continues to decline, North Dakota will have lost one of the few amenities on which it can compete.
Had the quality of hunting been four years ago what it is today, I would still be a Twin Cities resident, visiting North Dakota about 12 days each fall. What kind of North Dakota economic development is that?
Please excuse the pun, but we're killing the golden goose.
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