Legislature tackles fish and game bills

By Joe
Albert

Staff Writer

St. Paul — Earlier this week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed off on
the Great Lakes Compact, a bill designed to afford the lakes added
protection. The previous night, the House followed the Senate’s
lead and passed a bill that creates a renewable energy standard in
the state.

That bill – Pawlenty is expected to sign it, too – mandates that
25 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources
by 2025.

While both bills are outside the realm of traditional
sportsmen’s issues – bills more in line with that arena have been
introduced and heard, in some cases – they are important for the
state, said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota
Conservation Federation.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had two major pieces of legislation in
the environment/conservation (realm) pass this early,” he said.
“They are good for sportsmen, too.”

Renewable energy means less traditional energy, which will lead
to less coal being burned, and a reduction in air pollution. Coal
is a main source of the mercury in the state’s lakes and rivers,
Botzek said.

While the energy and Great Lakes legislation was wrapping up, a
number of bills that could affect many sportsmen started making the
rounds. Notably, a bill to add a $1 surcharge to deer licenses to
fund a venison donation program passed out of a House
subcommittee.

Game and fish

The most comprehensive of the bills, introduced by Rep. David
Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, contains mostly technical changes, said Bob
Meier, DNR assistant commissioner. Those include:

  • Apprentice hunters. People older than 12 and born after Dec.
    31, 1979, who also don’t have a firearms safety certificate, could
    be issued an apprentice hunter validation, which would allow them
    to hunt small game and deer if they’re accompanied by a licensed
    adult.

The idea is to give people the chance to try hunting.

“It’s one of the tools we are trying to develop for recruitment
and retention,” Meier said. “We want to remove as many barriers as
we can for a person to get in the field.”

  • All-season deer license. Hunters who buy this license could
    take up to three antlerless deer with it.

“We want to make sure you can take three does if you want to,”
Meier said.

  • Stamps. Instead of having to have the waterfowl and pheasant
    stamps in possession, hunters would need only the pheasant stamp
    and migratory waterfowl stamp validation on their small- game
    license. Hunters would have the option of buying the stamp. Stamp
    art contests still would take place.
  • For fishing contests that require a permit from the DNR, the
    agency would charge a fee to recover costs of issuing the permit
    and monitoring the activities the permit allows.

Licensing

The Dill bill and others that have been introduced seek changes
to the prices of fishing and hunting licenses for kids and
adults.

“I think it’s due to the number of new members,” Meier said. “It
goes in cycles. When you get new people in they want to look at the
licenses. As they explore the issue and fiscal impacts and what
they mean, they kind of realize we have a pretty good licensing
system the way it is.”

Bills like one that would allow nonresidents under 16 years old
to buy a deer-hunting license for the same price as a resident are
a little different.

“We don’t have as big a concern with the youth licenses,” Meier
said. “Again, it’s looking at long-term, overall recruitment and
retention efforts. We want to get kids in the field.”

Muzzleloader scopes

A provision that would allow hunters to use scopes on their
muzzleloaders is one of the highlights of a bill introduced by Sen.
Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the past. The DNR
hasn’t taken a stance on muzzleloader scopes, saying it’s a social
rather than biological issue. Originally, the season was meant to
offer a more traditional hunt.

“The season was established for the traditionalists, flintlock
and ball-and-cap things,” Meier said.

Aquaculture

Saxhaug’s bill also addresses aquaculture. It would place a
moratorium on licensing new public waters for aquaculture or fish
raising if those waters weren’t licensed or used for those purposes
during a five-year period to April 1, 2007.

The DNR could authorize fish rearing in new public waters before
Dec. 31, 2008, if the fish rearing is part of a wetland improvement
plan.

A separate bill, authored by Rep. Bev Scalze, DFL-Little Canada,
seeks to protect ecological value and riparian rights when aquatic
farm permits are issued. The bill requires a water management plan,
and each shoreline owner would have to give consent.

Commercial netting

The DNR could issue special permits to licensed commercial
operators for taking lake trout in Lake Superior under a bill that
Dill introduced. The DNR, in its Lake Superior Management Plan,
opted not to allow commercial netting.

While the bill doesn’t specify a number of fish that could be
netted, Meier said it seeks an “assessment fishery.”

Categories: Hunting News

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