Law restricts N.D. access over MEA

Retaliation: Is it time for Minnesota to strike back?

By Shawn Perich

Field Editor

St. Paul The steady stream of North Dakota traffic travelling to
and from western Minnesota’s lake country has not gone unnoticed by
Minnesota hunters feeling the sting of North Dakota’s new
nonresident restrictions.

North Dakota may have the birds that attract a few roving
hunters in the fall, but Minnesota has the fish and the lakes and
trees that draw residents of the windswept Red River Valley
eastward throughout the year. License sales figures from the
Minnesota DNR show that about 45,000 North Dakotans buy Minnesota
nonresident fishing licenses every year. For just $34, a North
Dakotan can enjoy all the privileges of Minnesota fishing for an
entire year.

Prime angling is available within easy day-tripping or
weekending distance of the Red River Valley, where the vast
majority of North Dakotans reside.

So a question begs to be asked: Is it time to treat North Dakota
to a little tit for tat?

Skip Drake, a Grand Rapids sportsman who travels to North Dakota
every fall to hunt with family and friends who reside there, plans
to bring the issue to state legislators. Drake’s plan is
straight-forward. Why not restructure Minnesota’s nonresident
fishing license to mirror North Dakota’s new nonresident bird
hunting rules? He proposes that a Minnesota nonresident fishing
license should cost about $100 and be limited to two, five-day
periods. If you want to fish more than that, you can buy a second
license.

Also, nonresidents would not be allowed to fish in Minnesota
during the first week of the fishing season.

This proposal, and others similar to it, are being talked about
(albeit unofficially) by Minnesota hunters who are fed up with
North Dakota’s unfriendly attitude toward nonresidents. As Drake
points out, North Dakota is benefitting from nationally funded
wildlife conservation efforts, such as waterfowl management by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, habitat projects by organizations
such as Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited, and
Pittman-Robertson funding derived in part from nonresident hunting
license sales. His greatest concern is that North Dakota has based
its nonresident restrictions on social and political issues, rather
than science-based biological information.

The Minnesota DNR is very concerned about North Dakota’s new
rules and the response from affected Minnesotans. Deputy
Commissioner Mark Holsten says the agency hopes to work with Gov.
Tim Pawlenty to seek a diplomatic solution to the nonresident issue
and head off a potential border war.

“Retaliatory measures serve no one and will only lead to more
animosity,” Holsten says.

Already, some Minnesota legislators are considering retaliatory
legislation, he says. The DNR hopes to find ways to address the
issue before the next legislative session.

“This is a big concern for us,” Holsten says. “We’re trying to
find ways to eliminate the barriers to getting people out to hunt
and fish. This is not helping.”

In the past, Holsten took his young son to North Dakota on a
duck hunting trip. Although his son was not old enough to hunt, he
wanted him to see how people lived on the prairies, to experience
the wonder of the fall waterfowl migration, and to learn about the
nuances of hunt, such as asking landowners for permission. Now, as
his son is reaching hunting age, Holsten wonders if he will ever
have the opportunity to experience a North Dakota hunt. With news
of the new restrictions, he is reconsidering his plans to visit
North Dakota.

“If I don’t go, how will my son ever have the chance to go?” he
asks.

Holsten says if the restrictions were based on resource
concerns, Minnesota hunters would be understanding. Unfortunately,
they are politically motivated, he says, and poorly serve the
future of hunting by creating new barriers to participation for the
average hunter.

“I understand the motivation for wanting to take care of North
Dakota residents, but when you do it at such a high cost to
hunting, it’s not worth it,” Holsten says. “I hope our governor can
persuade their governor to understand that.”

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