N.D. waterfowl issue debated
By Janell Cole
The Forum - 01/24/2003
BISMARCK - A legislative hunter pressure concept bill that North Dakota hunter John French calls "a brilliant plan, a perfect compromise" is badly flawed, say those who welcome nonresident hunters.
The two sides, at odds over competition for waterfowl hunting, met for six hours in the Legislature's largest hearing room Thursday to discuss Senate Bill 2048 before the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
The committee took no action and won't until next week, said its chairman, Sen. Tom Fischer, R-Fargo.
A competing bill, House Bill 1307, will be heard today beginning at 8.
Resident hunters like the formula proposed by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department because they think it will mean less competition for increasingly scarce access to duck hunting. It would vary the number of nonresident waterfowl licenses annually depending on the number of resident licenses sold and other factors.
But Randy Frost, representing the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce, and others, warned that it could severely cut the number of nonresidents who bring precious tourism dollars to struggling small towns and farmers every fall.
"Do not be misled by arguments that this is based on biology," Frost told the Senate panel.
Under the formula, Game and Fish uses biological and wetlands data to set a total number waterfowl licenses allotted per year. If that were to be pegged at 60,000, for instance, the state would first tally how many licenses are sold to resident hunters. The remainder would be allotted to nonresidents.
If 35,000 resident licenses were sold, 25,000 licenses would remain for nonresidents that year. If 40,000 resident licenses were sold, that would leave only 20,000 for nonresidents.
In 2002, the state registered 30,000 non-resident hunters 36,000 resident hunters.
Frost said the formula is "punitive and can be manipulated by resident hunters."
All it would take is resident hunters all buying licenses for their non-hunting spouses, and the out-of-state hunters would be drastically reduced, he said.
Had the formula been used last fall, the number of nonresident hunters would have been reduced by 8,000, Frost said.
Their spending equals $14.5 million, he said.
Farm families testified that they need every precious dollar they can make from lodging nonresident hunters and charging them to hunt on their land. Some say resident hunters are selfishly protecting access to a hobby while they (the farmers) fight to stay solvent.
"They want to leave us with nothing. Nothing but footprints," said Deb Roppel, of Alsen, who operates Lost Prairie Lodge in the small Cavalier County town.
Connie Krapp, Pingree, said her family has operated fee-hunting for nonresident hunters for the past six years as a way to diversify their farm income. When crop land floods and can't be planted, "You've got to look at a way to make up for it," she said.
But French, president of the Grand Forks County Wildlife Federation, and other resident hunters, said rural folks and tourism people will find out they are capitalizing on a short-lived industry if unlimited numbers of nonresidents keep coming.
"Selling North Dakota's precious natural resources to the highest bidder is not economic development," he said.
Tim Hayden, Mandan, said, "our (in state) sportsmen's base is being destroyed."
Hayden, who moved to North Dakota from Oregon for the quality hunting, offended some legislators when he said the whole problem is caused by ignorance.
Hayden said he meant no offense. "People just don't understand."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830