Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, and Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, think hunters and fishermen are getting a raw deal when it comes to funding lands managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game A conservation permit proposed by Boyle to help remedy the problem was voted down Thursday in the House by a count of 25-43.
The plan pitched by the duo of lawmakers would have created a conservation permit that would have served as an additional revenue stream for the department. Individuals or families wishing to participate in activities, such as picnicking or bird-watching, would have been required to purchase the permit, which the sponsors said would help the department pay for maintenance and operations of parks and campground. The cost of the permit would have been $10, but families who purchased it would have only needed one permit for an entire group of family members. Children would not have been required to purchase permits. Out-of-state residents would have been charged $20 for each permit.
Anyone caught on fish and game land without one of the permits - conservation, trapping, hunting, or fishing - would be cited by department officials, though Boyle said during implementation of the program, which she estimated to be about a year-long process, no one would receive a citation. Boyle noted that the in the first year of the program, fish and game officials will spend time educating the public about the new requirements.
For Hagedorn and Boyle, the permit was about leveling the paying field. The duo argued that though hunters and fishermen pay to use state land by purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, those who utilize the land for other activities pay nothing while putting a burden on department officials.
Rexburg Republican Dell Raybould rejected that notion, saying that hunting and fishing permits are all about "the take." He told lawmakers that that difference between established permits and the proposed permit is that hunters and fishermen typically reap some benefit in using their licences, usually in the form of a dead animal or fish to take home. Raybould added that conservation permits would provide no such benefits for resident.
"What are they going to take?" asked Raybould. "A picture?"
House Assistant Minority Leader James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, said the permits fly in the face of what it means to be an Idahoan. He told lawmakers that he feels that living in Idaho is synonymous with being in the outdoors, and that the permit would place unneeded barriers for those wishing to use public lands.
Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis, offered the most critical testimony of the legislation during the lengthy floor debate. Barrett, not one to beat around the bush on issues, scolded representatives for trying to raise taxes through the permit in tough economic times.
"Money is tight for everybody, not just government," said Barrett, adding that lawmakers often "sneak in the backdoor and raise fees" to generate addition revenue. Barrett also joined with Raybould in decrying the perceived lack of value associated with the permit by inviting lawmakers to her home in Challis, from which, she says, she can see wildlife in her backyard.
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