A Senate panel rejected an amendment to the Idaho Invasive Species Act that lawmakers feared could give too much power to officials trying to stop the spread of non-native plants and animals. The plan would have opened up the plan currently in place to stop quagga mussels and other invasive species on boats to cover possible checks on all motor vehicles and any container that could carry the harmful creatures.
The Idaho Invasive Species Act currently requires that all boats coming into the state be checked at inspection stations to make sure there aren’t any aquatic hitchhikers like quagga mussels. Funding for the inspections and cleaning comes from the invasive species sticker that boats are required to have.
Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, said a container could mean anything. “The word container as defined as a conveyance appears to give very broad latitude,” he said. “Eventually you’re going to (be able to) stop every vehicle on the road.” Schroeder said he did not want police stopping him every time he crossed the state border with a cooler in the back of his pickup truck.
"I think we may be impinging on some constitutional issues in terms of searches,” Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said.
Lloyd Knight, the plant industries division administrator with the Idaho Department of Agriculture, said the rejected broader language would offer needed flexibility. “We wanted the ability to define that very broadly because we found ourselves in a box at the end of last season,” he said. “As we implement this program, we are very specific as to what (species) we’re looking for and when we’re looking for it.”
Knight said another problem that became evident after the first year of the program is enforcing the boat checks. “Law enforcement agencies didn’t have the ability, if boats blew by the station … to issue citations,” he said. Checkpoints located near boat launches, like at Farragut State Park in north Idaho, had fewer unchecked boats, but Knight said other spots, like at the Heutter Rest Area on I-90 near Coeur d’Alene, had less than half of all boats checked. Knight said the amendment would make it easier to punish violators.
The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee voted against printing the proposed changes, but lawmakers on the panel said they would reconsider it if Knight reins in some of the wording. Knight said he is confident that, with some revisions, lawmakers should approve the changes this session.
STAY CONNECTED with the latest news, research and opinions from the Gem State.