Posted on Sun, May. 04, 2003
GAME AND FISH ADVISORY BOARD: N.D. proposes waterfowl zones
Plan would help distribute nonresident hunters, official says
By Brad Dokken
Herald Staff Writer
CAVALIER, N.D. - The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is floating a proposal that would divide the state into three zones for the fall waterfowl season and limit the time in which nonresidents could hunt in two of those zones.
Similar to a plan that state lawmakers scrapped in early April, the proposal would establish two controlled zones - one near Jamestown and extending to the South Dakota border, the other southwest of Minot - where nonresidents would be limited to seven days of hunting. After seven days, nonresidents in the two zones would have to move to the third zone - basically the remainder of the state - to finish out their 14-day licenses.
The third zone would be open to nonresidents for their entire license period.
Dean Hildebrand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, discussed the proposal Wednesday night in Cavalier at the spring meeting of the Game and Fish Advisory Board. A traveling road show of outdoors issues, the Advisory Board circuit brings Game and Fish staff to communities in each of the state's eight districts twice a year.
"This is a way of trying to bring some sort of balance" to the nonresident waterfowl debate, Hildebrand said. "Is it the right way? I don't know that. This hasn't been an easy bronc to ride."
No caps at this point
After lawmakers failed to pass legislation to manage nonresident waterfowl hunters, Hildebrand said Gov. John Hoeven asked him to bring the zone proposal to residents during the spring Advisory Board circuit. The proposal doesn't include any caps on nonresidents - at least at this point - Hildebrand said, although restrictions could be implemented if public input warrants.
Hoeven would have to sign off on any proposal before it takes effect.
"The governor said 'take this proposal out (to the public) and have them take a look at it,'" Hildebrand said. "Whether we put a limit on nonresident licenses is still to be discussed."
Last fall, Hoeven implemented a cap of 30,000 nonresident waterfowl licenses. About 4,350 nonresidents hunted last fall in the first of the two zones bring proposed, Hildebrand said, with another 2,700 in the second zone. The remaining 23,000 nonresidents hunted throughout the state, the uncontrolled area under the Game and Fish proposal.
As part of the Game and Fish plan, nonresidents would have to specify the controlled zone they wanted to hunt at the time they purchase their license.
Back to square one
During the recent legislative session, House lawmakers defeated a bill that would have set nonresident license numbers based on spring wetland conditions and the previous year's hunting pressure. Widely known as the "Hunter Pressure Concept," the bill in its original form would have allowed only 22,000 nonresident waterfowl licenses if it had been in place last fall. Amendments later broadened that number to about 33,000.
While resident hunting groups favored the Hunter Pressure plan, tourism interests and small-town businesses opposed the measure and its restrictions on nonresidents.
"We're back to square one," Hildebrand said.
Hildebrand said legislators did pass a couple of bills that could have an impact on nonresident hunter numbers. One bill requires nonresidents to purchase separate licenses for upland game and waterfowl, eliminating the one license for both that previously was in effect. Also, Hildebrand said, lawmakers eliminated the seven-day waterfowl license that allowed nonresidents to hunt anywhere in the state.
Under HB1358, a nonresident small game license will cost $85, and a nonresident waterfowl license also costs $85. The nonresident small game license is good for 10 consecutive days or two periods of five consecutive days, and nonresidents can purchase more than one small game license per season.
Hildebrand said the change will pump another $2.1 million into the Game and Fish budget, money that will be used to boost the amount of private land available for public hunting access.
Leg tag idea
Another idea that's been making the rounds in resident hunting circles since the end of the legislative session involves issuing a set number of leg tags to nonresident waterfowl hunters. Nonresidents would have to tag each duck they shoot, and once they used up the tags, they'd be done hunting.
John French of Grand Forks said the tags, which were issued to nonresident hunters before being discontinued in the 1970s, would help cut down on the wanton waste that occurs when hunters shoot more ducks than their limit allows. Under the "liberal" regulations that were in effect last season under federal waterfowl frameworks, hunters could shoot six ducks daily and have 12 in possession.
Hildebrand said the tag idea had been brought up at other Advisory Board meetings and that Game and Fish would consider the proposal. But at this point, he said, the plan isn't part of the waterfowl proposal.
"I don't like to make any more rules than we need," Hildebrand said. "If we think wanton waste is a problem, we would move in that direction. If we decide to use tags, we could make that work."
The 20 or so people attending Wednesday night's meeting didn't appear to have strong opinions one way or another on the Game and Fish waterfowl proposal. Instead, they were more interested in talking about elk and deer - issues that are more relevant to the Cavalier area.
North Dakota again this year is proposing to open the first week of waterfowl season for residents only. As part of the proposal, waterfowl season would open Sept. 27, and nonresidents could begin hunting Oct. 4. The youth waterfowl season would be Sept. 19-20. The proposed opening dates are subject to federal season frameworks, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will set later this summer.
Game and Fish also has proposed that pheasant season open Oct. 11.