From the Heartland

This is my soap box, on these pages I publish my opinions on firearms and any other subject I feel like writing about.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Nelson says yes for Nebraskans and no to profit hunting

According to Senator Ben Nelson (D-Ne) recent court rulings in Arizona and Nevada has turned the management of fish and non-migratory wildlife in those states over to the federal government. Because of that he has introduced legislation in the Senate to protect the states rights to manage their own hunting and fishing programs.

This is about protecting the rights of states to do what they need to do to protect wildlife," he said.

The federal government has long held dominion over migratory wildlife, the most prolific of which are Ducks and Geese. Migratory species typically transit the three countries, Canda, Mexico, and the United States, that make up the bulk of North America. Because all three countries have a vested interest in the welfare of these migratory species the governments at the federal level must be able to enact treaties and agreements. That is generally where involvement at the federal level ends. Management of non-migratory species has legally and traditionally been the purvue of the individual states.

License Fees and Non-resident access
For many years it has been customary for states to charge more for and offer fewer non-resident fishing and hunting licenes than residents are available to residents. This has not been to discourage out of state sportsman from participating; it simply recognizes that the bulk of state wildlife funds are paid for by residents of a state and that takes precedent over non-residents.

"Restrictions on numbers and access are necessary to prevent overhunting of a species. Charging nonresidents a premium not only limits their number, but also reserves most of the surplus game for resident hunters who support the conservation work being done in their state," Nelson said.

Restrictions on the numbers and access are necessary to prevent over hunting. This is a concept that people opposed to hunting find so hard to understand; Regulated hunting has and never will result in an endangered species. As I have written in previous entries, here and here Wildlife Managers have done such a fabulous job of management that overpopulation of many of the species, in different parts of the country, has reached or surpassed critical levels.

Jim Posewitz, director of Orion, The Hunter's Institute and an author of several books on hunting ethics, said North America's conservation pioneers saved wildlife from being wiped out by market hunters. Their support of a democratic conservation ethic, in which wildlife belongs to the people, restored many game animals and other wildlife to healthy populations.

Wildlife Management again
All species need air, water, shelter, food, space and companionship (habitat) in order to survive. A given area of any size will only support a maximum number of wildlife without damage to the animals or the habitat (carrying capacity). When one species of wildlife has reached or exceeded their capacity (surplus)it not only affects them, but every other species that inhabits that area. To not hunt (preservation) consigns much of the wildlife to a horrible and painfull death of disease and starvation in what is refered to as winterkill. By setting responsible hunting seasons much of the game that is expected to die a winter death can be harvested and consumed (conservation). Regulated hunting is a necessary part of wilflife management, without it many species would experience catastrophic winter die off. Not only would the animals that could have been hunted die, so would most if not all of the species in that area.

Now the threat is back in the form of guides and outfitters who seek to sell wildlife to the highest bidder. He applauded Nelson's bill and said it needs to pass quickly before more states face the types of legal challenges in Arizona and Nevada.

"We have to erect a barrier between the conservation of wildlife and the commerce of wildlife or we will lose everything we have restored over the past century," Posewitz said.

Property rights and being good neighbors
There in lies the problem at least as far as Nebraska is concerned. For several years now Outfitters that sell guided hunts in the Cornhusker State have been petitioning the legislature to change the law to make landowner hunting licenses transferable. In Nebraska property owners can purchase (over-the-counter) one either sex deer license for every eighty acres they own or legally lease. Another proposal would set aside a number of permits strictly for guides and outfitters. If one or both of these laws are enacted the guides and outfitters that lease large tracts of land will be able to either buy a specific licenses for only out-of-state hunters or one for every eighty acres they claim and then transfer that permit to a client (hunter) as part of the the fee.

The problem is much deeper than just the license issue; many people that have been long time hunters in certain areas are being shut out by big money. To explain that lets assume that, for years the local feed dealer and his family may have had permission to hunt on a nearby farm or ranch only to be suddenly denied access because an outfitter or a few guys from the big city pooled their money made the land owner a deal he couldn't refuse; thousands of dollars a year for exclusive rights to any and all of the hunting on that property. (ed .. I know of one instance in western Nebraska wher this scenario actually happened)

Right or wrong that has created some very hard feelings among neighbors that have been friends or associates for a generations or more. The people that are being shut out see these proposed laws as another way of locking up even more land and any block of permits solely designated for non-residents is that many fewer that will be available to residents in the annual lottery draw.

The way some of Nebraska's hunters see it they are being shut out and denied licenses so that the outfitters and guides that have the capital to negotiate away their existing permission to hunt can make even more profit. Property owners have the right (ed..or should have) to do what ever they want with their property. If someone offers them a lot of money for a hunting lease they have every right to sign that lease. There are alot of finacially sound reasons for a landowner to enter into a lease like that.

The point here is the following example; For years you and I have had an agreement, for years before that our fathers maintained the same agreement, we socialize, our wives are on the PTA, our kids play on the same sports teams at the local schools and suddenly I won't let you hunt on my land anymore because I have accepted thirty pieces of silver from an out of state entity for the exclusive hunting rights on my property. As a landowner I am certainly entitled to make that choice, but if and when I do, what does that say about the kind of a friend and neighbor I have become?

Senator Nelson's Bill protects the legally recognized states right to manage their own populations of non-migratory wildlife. Senator Ben Nelson a Democrat, unlike John Kerry, is a hunter he understands the issues that face not only Wildlife Managers, and hunters, but landowners as well. This bill should be supported by everyone that considers themselves a sportsman. Big money is moving into the business of hunting and has been for several years. I am not opposed to guides and outfitters by any stretch of the imagination. I have used them in the past, intend to in the future and, have even done abit of it myself on occassion, but to change the law to further enable the profiteering of the state's wildlife at the expense of the resident hunters is just not good sense.


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