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To post or not to post? That is the question in Idaho.

By Michael Gibson 

Sportsmen and women in Idaho are concerned about a proposed law working its way through the Statehouse in Boise that could have drastic impacts on hunting and fishing access in the Gem State.

While Trout Unlimited agrees there could be some improvements in current trespassing laws in Idaho, there are some issues with House Bill 536, which would remove the requirements for landowners to post their property as private.

Removing these requirements would likely invite accidental trespassing, not prevent trespassing as the bill’s authors claim. In fact, should it become law, would muddy the state’s trespassing statutes and potentially confuse legal access to public lands. There are literally thousands of fences stretched across public land to denote grazing allotments. By not requiring landowners to post their land, confusion of what’s private and what’s public will get worse.

In fact, it’s almost as if the bill’s authors are trying to play “gotcha!” with sportsmen and women. It simply makes no sense.

TU also has concerns about the bill’s language that would levy a felony charge for repeat offenders who might think they’re on public land, but because no signs exist to warn them otherwise, they could be unknowingly guilty.

Taking away fishing and hunting privileges in such cases seems more appropriate than a felony charge, and would likely act as a large deterrent to hunters and anglers. But the larger issue still looms: unposted land adds confusion to the access issue.

But perhaps TU’s greatest concern is the fact there was no efforts made to include sportsmen when language for the bill was crafted. The bill was released to the general public after a print hearing on Feb. 8. Rep. Judy Boyle testified as the sponsor of the bill and stated she had been working on it for years. If that is the case, why weren’t sportsmen and women included in the discussions? Governing should be inclusive, and this bill is anything but.

During a House Agricultural Committee hearing on the bill, representatives of the Idaho Sheriff’s Association of Counties and the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association also said their organizations knew nothing of HB 536 until it was printed. They expressed concern that the bill could be indefensible in court and, perhaps, even unconstitutional.

We encourage Idaho sportsmen and women—and hunters and anglers who visit Idaho to fish and every year and contribute to Idaho’s robust outdoor recreation economy— to reach out to Idaho’s legislators and make it clear that changes in the trespassing laws should be considered, but those changes must be done in the light of day and in collaboration with all the impacted parties.

Ask them to vote no on House Bill 356. You can find your state lawmakers here.

Michael Gibson is the Idaho Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportmen’s Conservation Project. He is currently spending a lot of time in the Idaho Statehouse in Boise. 

Trout Unlimited testimony on the Idaho Fish and Game Fee Legislation

Testimony for House Bill 230

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, My name is Michael Gibson, Idaho Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, I am from Boise. I come before you today representing our Idaho members and convey our support for H230.

Trout Unlimited is made up of angler conservationists with a mission to conserve, protect and restore Idaho’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. We understand the importance of a fully funded fish and game agency and their ability to efficiently manage fish and wildlife populations now and for the future. Idaho has arguably the best fishing and hunting opportunities in the lower 48 states and is the envy of the nation. We deserve to have the best and brightest personnel to manage this world-class resource. Fulling funding the agency allows them to find and retain qualified biologists and staff in a competitive marketplace.

We applaud the agency for “thinking outside the box,” so to speak, with their innovative price lock proposal. Price Lock, which rewards loyal customers who annually by hunting and fishing licenses, by holding their cost for hunting, fishing and big game tags at current levels, also helps recruit infrequent and sporadic purchasers of licenses and retain them in the system.

H230 also proposes a new revenue stream to address the challenge of big game depredation on private land and more money for hunting and fishing access programs. Further, a larger portion of each fishing license will go towards fishing improvements and fishing access.

While we recognize that asking sportsmen and women to pay more in fees is never easy, the bill before you today strikes a balance with keeping up with increasing costs, effective management of Idaho’s wildlife resource, protecting private landowners, increasing access opportunities and rewarding loyal customers.

With that I ask for you move H230 to the floor with a do pass recommendation.

Attacks on clean water, public lands and Idaho Fish and Game thwarted at Idaho Legislature

The second regular session of the Sixty-third Idaho Legislature called Sine Die in March after seventy-five legislative days.  As usual, attacks on clean water, public lands and the state’s fish and game agency were not in short supply.  Trout Unlimited and its conservation partners were kept busy from day one heading off a slew of bills attempting to expand small-scale suction dredge mining in the state, transfer federal land ownership to the state and politicize fish and game management.  

Straight out of the gate, S1236 was introduced in Senate Resource and Environment by Senator Steve Bair (R-Blackfoot).  This bill would have mandated that the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Commission issue twelve Governor’s tags for trophy game species, removing the Commission’s discretion of using science and public input to make game management decisions.  A fundamental shift towards politicizing fish and game management in Idaho, this bill would run contrary to why the Commission was established over 75 years ago.  TU and a myriad of other sportsmen groups, with help from the Commission itself, sent a strong message to legislators that the bill was unacceptable. It never got a hearing in committee.  

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Next up, HB 510 was introduced in House Resource and Conservation by Representative Paul Shepherd (R-Riggins).  HB 510 would have drastically increased the scope and impact of what the bill defined as “small-scale” suction dredge mining while simultaneously deregulating the practice from any state oversight.  Increasing equipment size and eliminating horsepower restrictions, the bill would have allowed dredgers to move up to five cubic yards of sediment per hour.  HB 510’s Achilles heel was that the new statute attempted to remove small-scale dredging from the EPA’s list of point source pollutants.  After testimony from TU leaders, Idaho Department of Water Resources, the State Attorney General and others, the committee unanimously voted to return the bill to its sponsor.  

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