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Park visitor license proposed

Lawmaker says fees would help defray public land costs

BOISE – A Southern Idaho lawmaker would like people who don’t hunt or fish to help shoulder the cost of caring for certain public lands.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said she was stunned to learn that only 23 percent of people who use the Boise River Wildlife Management Area have hunting or fishing licenses. So she’s proposing legislation to require people who enter it and certain other state lands to purchase $10 “conservation licenses.” Out-of-state residents would pay $20.

“I thought everyone that went on wildlife management areas or anywhere were hunters or fishermen,” Boyle told the House Resources Committee. “If you do not hold a current hunting, trapping and fishing license from Fish and Game and you want to go onto their lands, you would need to buy a conservation license.” People who didn’t comply could be cited.

The bill would apply on lands to be designated by the Idaho Fish and Game Department, anywhere in the state. Boyle said it would raise money for the department, which could use it for maintenance, weed control and nongame wildlife.

“A lot of the time folks go out there and picnic and leave all their garbage to be picked up,” Boyle said. “They bring weeds … and the seeds sprout. … It’s only fair that anybody that uses it should pay.”

Some committee members weren’t so sure.

“If I have a hunting license, then I get to hunt, and I may have something to show for my license,” said Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis. “But I’m not sure if I’m ready to buy a license to rubberneck. And just to step on a property and watch a bird fly off shouldn’t be that expensive.”

Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, spoke out against the bill, saying, “All taxpayers to some degree pay for fish and wildlife lands – they pay because those lands are taken out of production.”

But Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, an avid bird-watcher, spoke in support. He said the move could help Fish and Game pay for the jobs it’s been given that don’t pertain to hunting or fishing. “I’m willing to pay a small fee,” he said.

Boyle’s bill would charge adults only, not children.

The committee voted to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a full hearing, but three members asked to be recorded as voting no: Barrett, Eskridge, and Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome.

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