Nonresidents face restrictions in some states and provinces

Staff Writer

Traveling hunters and anglers are increasingly finding
themselves the targets of new restrictions designed to limit and
perhaps discourage nonresident hunting and fishing.

This fall, resident pheasant hunters in South Dakota and Montana
will have an opportunity to go afield for several days before
nonresidents are allowed to hunt. North Dakotans are debating
whether to restrict nonresident waterfowl hunters. In Ontario,
nonresidents who camp on crown land are restricted to smaller fish
limits.

Sometimes, the restrictions are a matter of money. Colorado more
than doubled the cost of nonresident elk licenses. There is talk in
Arkansas of charging a high fee for nonresident duck hunters who
use the services of an outfitter. Other states have either
implemented or are considering higher nonresident fees.

“The premise isn’t that game and fish departments are strapped
for money,” said Lloyd Jones of Delta Waterfowl. “States are
raising license fees as a way to deter or limit nonresidents.”

Although the methods of limiting nonresidents vary, the states
where such activities are occurring seem to follow a consistent
pattern. Most are states with relatively low populations that are
within driving distance of population centers. For instances,
thousands of Wisconsinites stream across state borders to hunt in
the Dakotas and western states, or to go fishing in Canada. In
places where there are few locals, it doesn’t take the arrival of
too many vehicles with nonresident license plates to seem like a
crowd.

Another issue is affluence. Some traveling hunters and anglers
are well-heeled and willing to pay for their fun. This spurs
expansion of the outfitting industry. Often, outfitters lease large
tracts of private lands to ensure there are places for their
clients to hunt.

“Commercialization is part of the problem,” said Paul Schadewald
of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “Outfitters are
leasing large acreage and taking over control of the land, which
makes it more difficult for residents to find places to hunt.”

Sometimes, the nonresidents buy or lease land. In the depressed
Great Plains economy, buying real estate can seem like a bargain
for urbanites accustomed to higher prices. Prime waterfowl hunting
areas in North Dakota are being bought by nonresidents who may only
hunt on the property for a week or two each year.

Of course, the primary reason people travel to hunt or fish is
because they can’t find opportunities of similar quality close to
home.

“High quality hunting experiences are extremely limited,” said
Rod Sando of the Idaho Fish and Game Department. “The best places
are getting swamped with hunters, because everyone is so mobile
these days.”

To maintain quality hunting, said Sando, fish and game
departments must either control the number of available hunting
permits or raise permit fees. Maintaining the quality of angling is
easier, because fish harvests can be controlled with
catch-and-release restrictions or lower bag limits. But such
harvest options aren’t available to manage hunting, where the point
is to put something in the bag.

Sando said in some situations, hunting pressure is controlled by
market forces. He points to South Dakota, where pheasant hunting on
private land in prime areas is controlled by fee access. Since
landowners can use trespass laws to control who hunts on their
land, hunting pressure is limited to those willing to pay the
landowner for access.

“Landowners are rationing the pheasant resource and making
money,” Sando said.

However, it is the money aspect creeping into hunting that most
concerns many hunters and wildlife managers. The American system of
wildlife management is founded on the premise that fish and
wildlife are public resources. Increasingly, though, gaining access
to that resource requires forking over some cash. In Montana, where
the state nearly doubled the price of nonresident bird licenses and
is now considering a cap on nonresident licenses, wildlife
administrator Don Childress said the core issue has yet to be
addressed.

“The major issue is the lack of access to private land,” he
said.

“There is a changing economic and social environment in all
states, not just Montana. Residents are looking for ways to provide
hunting and fishing opportunities they once had.”

Elsewhere in Montana, efforts to address crowding on two popular
fly-fishing rivers, the Beaverhead and Bighole, led the state, with
citizen input, to designate stretches that are closed to commercial
outfitting and prevent nonresidents from floating some waters on
Saturdays. A moratorium was imposed to limit the amount of
outfitting occurring on the rivers. Still, these measures are
unlikely to be permanent solutions.

“It’s a function of changing times,” said regional supervisor
Pat Flowers in Bozeman. “More people are coming to Montana to
fly-fish.

“The current regulation is a two-year rule that will have to be
reconsidered. I think the solution will change as the situation
changes.”

In recent years, change as measured in increasing hunting and
fishing pressure has occurred quickly. No one can predict what
further change may be in the offing.

“The big issue is what is happening to hunting and who will be
able to hunt in the future,” said Jones. “If you look at the
changes we’ve seen in hunting during the last five years and
consider what will happen if change continues at that pace, will
hunting become an activity that only wealthy can afford.”

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