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NORTH DAKOTA LEGISLATURE: Panels amend nonresident bills
Morning-only duck hunt first two weeks of season, more nonresidents under Hunter Pressure Concept among changes
By Brad Dokken
Herald Staff Writer

In their quest for compromise, members of the House and Senate natural resources committees have tweaked two bills designed to manage nonresident waterfowl hunters in North Dakota.

Both pieces of legislation came out of an interim study by the Judiciary B Committee to more closely examine nonresident waterfowl hunting issues in the wake of the 2001 Legislature. SB2048, also known as the Hunter Pressure Concept, favored a sliding cap on nonresident waterfowl hunters based on wetland conditions and the previous year's hunting pressure. HB1307, meanwhile, called for a set cap of 10,000 nonresidents for each of two 10-day periods at the beginning of duck season, with unlimited numbers after the 20th day.

Resident hunter groups have lined up behind the Hunter Pressure Concept, while commercialized hunting interests generally favor the House bill.

Bills change

Thursday, the Senate Natural Resources Committee by a narrow 4-3 vote approved two amendments to the Hunter Pressure Concept bill.

The first amendment boosted the number of nonresidents the plan would allow by 25 percent. Under the original formula, developed by a team of North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists, 22,000 nonresident waterfowl licenses would have been available last fall if the plan had been in place. Thursday's amendment would have upped that number to 27,500 - still fewer than the 30,000 nonresident licenses Gov. John Hoeven authorized last season.

The Senate panel also approved a second amendment to allow duck hunting only in the morning during the first two weeks of season.

The state's three largest wildlife groups, the North Dakota Wildlife Federation, United Sportsmen and the North Dakota Sportsmen's Alliance unanimously supported the Hunter Pressure Concept in its original form and have actively lobbied on behalf of SB2048.

While the amendments might dampen that enthusiasm, Rep. Lois Delmore, D-Grand Forks, who chaired the Judiciary B Committee, said Thursday's action is just an initial step that shouldn't be cause for alarm.

"The good news is that Hunter Pressure is still alive," Delmore said. "It upped the governor's option (to issue 25 percent more licenses), but that number can be movable."

House bill

Meanwhile, the House Natural Resources Committee on Friday amended HB1307, Delmore said, adding a third 10-day cap of 10,000 hunters, and allowing unlimited nonresident licenses only after the 30th day of the season. Committee members also added three zones to the bill: north of state Highway 200 to the Canadian border, south of Highway 200 and east of U.S. Highway 281 and west of Highway 281 and south of zone 1.

According to Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Wolford, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, the amendment restricts license sales during the bulk of the season. But there's still opportunity for growth later in the season. He described the amendments as "an attempt to provide something, not to keep taking away from (nonresident hunters) all the time." Hunters drawing licenses for any of the three-day periods also could come back and hunt the later part of the season.

Nelson said the bill was set up so the state doesn't send such a "negative signal" to out-of-state hunters.

"This is an emotional issue," he said.

While Delmore doesn't serve on the House Natural Resources Committee, she's keeping a keen eye on the two waterfowl bills because of her involvement with the Judiciary B process.

"I think both bills will pass their respective houses," Delmore said. "They will change sides, there will be another hearing process on both, and then we'll be looking at more and different amendments.

"As long as they're both alive, we've got lots of room to work with both bills and do the right thing for the people of North Dakota
 
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