Rep. Steve Kren, R-Nampa, got himself peppered with questions today when he proposed legislation in the House Resources Committee to limit so-called "super hunts" mostly to state residents, allowing only 10 percent of the permits to go to non-residents. That's the case already for most controlled hunts, but the super hunts are a special program in which about 40 tags are raffled off each year, allowing the winners to choose from any valid open hunt in the state. Kren said about 30 percent of the winners have been out-of-staters, and that's gotten folks in his district grumbling. "People feel that Fish & Game is working very hard to attract non-residents, that they're getting preference over residents," Kren said. "I think it's important that Fish & Game works hard for the sportsmen, and understands that it's the residents of the state who they work for."
Kren, who said he's entered the raffle himself "a couple of years" since it began four years ago, never checked with Fish & Game before introducing the bill. F&G information supervisor Ed Mitchell said the super hunt permits are a special deal, "a whole separate thing to raise money for our Access Yes program." That program pays landowners for easements to allow hunters access; it's ensured access to about half a million acres statewide so far, and the department hopes to take it up to a million acres. Last year, the super hunt raffle raised about $140,000 for the access program. "It was purposely set outside the usual rules to get participation, and raise money for the access program," Mitchell said. All ticket-buyers in the raffle pay the same price for their raffle tickets, but the winners must also buy hunting licenses. Those cost $12.75 for an Idaho resident, $141.50 for someone from out of state.
Resources committee members closely questioned Kren about whether his
bill would cost Fish & Game money at a time when it's strapped and
seeking a fee increase. "Will that impact revenues for Fish &
Game?" asked Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d'Alene. "I don't believe it
will," Kren responded. "It's strictly a raffle-style ... there's no
for-sure funds at all involved in it." Other committee members questioned how the measure would affect outfitters and guides. Though it was an unusual move at
a bill-introduction hearing, committee members asked the Fish &
Game Department to comment, but F&G representative Sharon Keifer
said they weren't prepared to address a measure they hadn't seen, but
would testify if it were introduced and printed. The panel then voted
unanimously to introduce and print the bill.
Kren said afterward that he didn't feel beat-up, but the panel questioned him pretty closely for a representative introducing a bill. After introduction, bills still have full committee hearings. However, it's not unusual this year, and may even be the new norm. Lawmakers have been highly skeptical of many of the proposals brought before them this year, with the state budget so tight that they can't spare a cent.