Idaho BHA Comments on Idaho Motorized Rule for Hunters

Dear Commissioners,
Idaho Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is a grassroots group working to conserve and protect fish and wildlife habitat on Idaho’s public lands. Our members were very active during the debate on Senate Bill 1015 and 1016, which as you are aware, would have stripped the IDFG of their ability to regulate motor vehicle use as an aide to hunting across the state. I would like to reiterate our support of the agency’s ability to regulate motor vehicle use during hunting season, and urge the commission to continue to pursue this as a management option. We feel the equation is very simple- either regulate motor vehicles, or make do with shortened hunting seasons and/ or controlled hunt permits. Shortened seasons equate to reduced opportunity for hunters over a broad spectrum of interests, and have very real economic implications for rural communities in Idaho.

After attending the May 20th Commission Workshop on the Motorized Vehicle Rule for Hunters in Lewiston, ID, it is apparent that the rule is focused on meeting two objectives: reducing harvest vulnerability and improving the quality of the hunting experience. It is revealing to consider the study by Sanyal et al. (2008) that was cited at the workshop. Results of this study indicate that a majority of Idaho’s hunters support the motor vehicle rule and that “too many ATV’s and improper use” was listed as the number one reason for a dissatisfying hunt. In light of testimony heard at the workshop we respectfully offer the following suggestions for you to consider as modifications to the motor vehicle rule move forward.

  1. Apply the motorized hunting rule (MHR) by designated game management unit (Alternative Approach) and apply the rule to all hunting for classified wildlife species. This approach meets both objectives of the rule, is clear and consistent, easy to explain, and reduces the current burden on conservation officers by applying the rule to all hunting activities without specie exemption.
  2. Eliminate the “camping exclusion” contained in the current rule. The camping exclusion does not support the first objective of the MHR (reducing harvest vulnerability). It is apparent that this “loophole” in the current rule is a problem in some unit specific areas. Currently, hunters exercising this loophole are in violation of the intent of the law, but not the letter of the law. This has led to frustration among hunters who choose not to make use of the exception. Determining whether someone is “hunting” or “camping” under the current rule can be a fine distinction, and places an unreasonable burden on conservation officers to establish burden of proof.
  3. Make the use restriction part of the rule more explicit about what action of the hunter and motorized vehicle is restricted (Idea A). This option was supported by IDFG Chief of Enforcement Joe Heggen at the workshop. We feel this is the best option to meet the objectives of the MHR.

Thank you for your consideration,
Idaho Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

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