Bill protecting hunters’ privacy waiting for pen

Springfield — Legislation that would make it criminal for anyone to use drones and other aerial devices to impede hunters and anglers in the state was waiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s approval as this issue of Illinois Outdoor News went to press.

Without Quinn’s signature, rules included in House Bill 1652 cannot be enforced.

The bill, introduced in February by Rep. Tom Cross, R-Plainfield, passed on May 28 and was sent to Quinn’s desk on June 19. Once signed, the law will amend the Criminal Code concerning hunter or fisherman interference, making it a Class A misdemeanor to “use a drone in a way that interferes with another person’s lawful taking of wildlife or aquatic life.”

A Senate amendment added later to the bill states that “Whenever a license or permit is issued to any person under the Fish and Aquatic Life Code or the Wildlife Code, and the holder of that license or permit is found guilty of a violation of the hunter or fisherman interference statute, DNR may refuse to issue any permit or license to that person or if the person has a license or permit, revoke that license or permit, and suspend that person from engaging in the activity requiring the permit or license.”

Contacted on June 19, Quinn’s office did not indicate when the governor might sign the bill into law. A spokesman in Quinn’s office said the governor expected to be busy with the state’s pension reform issue over the next few weeks.

HB 1652, sponsored in the House by Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, and in the Senate by Sen. Dan Biss, D-Skokie, was proposed after it became apparent that anti-hunting groups like PETA had ongoing plans to use unmanned aerial surveillance to disrupt hunters across the state.

In April, PETA confirmed those notions by announcing that it wanted to use drones to monitor farmers and hunters for any illegal activity.

“It’s everything, deer hunting, goose hunting, duck hunting,” Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, told the Associated Press. “They use these drones to interfere with that, and this law will basically make that illegal.”

Illinois is not alone in its attempt to quash the use of drones. Bills in Tennessee, Florida, Montana and Virginia center on drone surveillance by law enforcement. In Idaho and Texas, new laws regulate drone surveillance by public and private parties.

Hunters and anglers aren’t the only ones balking at drone employment. In Idaho, the law, which goes into effect July 1, requires a farmer’s permission before “farm, dairy, ranch or other agricultural industry” can be monitored with an unmanned aerial vehicle.” A similar bill introduced in the Missouri House earlier this year put similar restrictions on drone surveillance.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said the PETA drones will be used to save lives. PETA Spokeswoman Alicia Woempner says the bill won’t disrupt her organization’s objectives.

Although talk of drones has been around for years, PETA caused a stir earlier this year when it issued a press release stating, “PETA will soon have some impressive new weapons at its disposal to combat those who gun down deer and doves.” The group said it intended to “monitor those who are out in the woods with death on their minds. PETA aims to collect video footage of any illegal activity, including drinking while in the possession of a firearm, a common complaint from those who live near wooded areas; maiming animals and failing to pursue them so that they die slowly and painfully; and using spotlights, feed lures, and other hunting tricks that are illegal in some areas but remain common practices among hunters.”

Brown, who was a major forced behind HB 1652, emphasized that Illinois hunters should have the right to privacy, just like everyone else.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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