Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Committee changes little in ATV policy

and Shawn Perich

St. Paul Aside from the creation of a task force to further
study the issue, and mandated spring closure of off-highway vehicle
trails in some areas, OHV policy change was minimal in a bill
offered Tuesday by a House/Senate conference committee.

All-terrain vehicle trail use and abuse on state forest land has
been well-documented this session, but a Senate amendment that
would’ve created the most wholesale changes in ATV policy was nixed
during conference committee.

The “Kinkel Amendment,” for which the DNR voiced support in
March, would’ve ended cross-country travel once the DNR reached a
goal of 2,000 miles of designated ATV trails on forest land. In
fact, DNR Commissioner Allen Garber called the amendment, “an
important shift away from the Legislature’s past action in 1999
opening up state forests to cross-country ATV and OHV travel in
managed’ forests.”

However, Sen. Jane Krentz, chair of the Senate Environment and
Natural Resources Committee and a conferee, said conference
committee members considered the 2,000-mile objective “arbitrary,”
and said the plan failed to lay out geographically where those
2,000 miles would be put in place. She said the committee
recognized the value of the debate regarding ATV trails on state
forest.

“People are talking about the issue more,” she said. “It’s
important to bring people together.”

An important aspect of the bill, which will return to the House
and Senate, is a provision for emergency closure of some trails
during the spring when they’re fragile, said Rep. Dennis Ozment,
R-Rosemount, chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources
Policy Committee.

After viewing several forest trails recently, DNR officials have
closed a number of them to motorized vehicle traffic. Along with
the legislative action, the DNR may choose to extend closures,
based on the condition of trails.

“With this, the Legislature says they shall close the trails,”
Ozment said.

Ozment said he felt it necessary to support DNR’s management of
ATV trails. Furthermore, he says it is the Legislature’s duty to
create policy the DNR’s to carry it out.

The task force, which will study ATV trail use during the next
year, will consist of members representing non-motorized trail
users, non-state forest managers, OHV groups, the DNR, and possibly
other interested parties, Ozment said. However, he believes it’s
important to limit the size of the group to increase its
effectiveness.

Ozment said he’s not sure, if passed, how the legislation would
affect pending lawsuits against the DNR regarding ATV trail
development.

“This (bill) does nothing to interfere with what (the DNR) is
doing with trail development,” Ozment said. “I don’t know how this
would affect the lawsuits. I hope it will.”

Another bill pending in the Legislature could affect ATV forest
trails. The “Stumpf/Hackbarth Bill” would increase funding for ATV
trails primarily for enforcement efforts and environmental
assessment of potential trails.

A number of other issues were addressed by the House/Senate
conference committee on Tuesday. These items included:

Two lines for fishing. A House proposal to allow anglers to use
two lines for fishing open water on state inland water bodies was
dumped by the conference committee.

There was concern over the impact of allowing more than one
line, especially at a time when the DNR is proposing a decrease in
the limits for some fish species, committee members said. The DNR
opposed the two-lines proposal.

Conservation angling licenses. Another House proposal, one that
would allow anglers to buy a less expensive license in exchange for
lower fish limits failed.

The reason was simple, according to Krentz. During a time of
budget shortfalls, the DNR couldn’t afford to take the projected $2
million reduction in revenue that would accompany such a
license.

Legislators have expressed support for the conservation measure,
but say the potential loss in revenue must be addressed.

Two-deer license. A new, all-season deer license would replace
the existing all-season buck license under the conference committee
proposal. Costing $75, the license would allow an individual to
hunt during the archery, firearms, and muzzleloader seasons and to
tag a buck and an antlerless deer.

However, during the firearms season, the hunter would need to
have received a permit to harvest a doe, Krentz said.

Party hunting would not be allowed on the all-season license.
However, license-holders would be eligible for intensive harvest
permits to take additional deer.

Shining. A proposed shining rule would prohibit shining from
one-half hour after sunset until sunrise in fenced fields with
livestock and poultry when signs stated “No Shining.” There’s also
a prohibition on shining of buildings and residential homes between
between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

For fisheries, there’s a proposal to repeal a 10-year-old
provision requiring live bait be allowed on experimental waters in
southeastern Minnesota. That and a barbless hook requirement are
among rules changes sought by the DNR. Another provision approved
by the conference committee would allow private ponds used for
aquaculture to be closed to fishing.

New turtle harvesting rules approved by the conference committee
would change licensing provisions by creating two new licenses an
apprentice license for commercial harvest assistants and a
recreational turtle license that would allow individuals to use
commercial turtle harvesting gear to collect turtles for personal
use. Additional licensing changes would allow existing commercial
licensees to continue operation, but would end the issuance of new
commercial licenses within the coming year.

The committee OK’d language to allow a limited prairie chicken
hunt, mandatory trapper education, a lifetime archery license, and
adding the .50 AE Express handgun cartridge as a legal big game
caliber were also included in legislation sent to conference
committee.

Con-Con. A bill that would designate 102,000 acres of
“Consolidated Conservation” land in northern Minnesota as wildlife
management area has been passed by the state Senate and is awaiting
action by the House.

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