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Field reports: Waterfowling boats shouldn’t be overloaded

HUNTING – Exceeding a boat’s weight capacity is one of several oversights that has resulted in hunting accidents over the years, said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game Department educator in Coeur d’Alene.

“The most common mistake waterfowl hunters make in their boating trip is overloading the boat,” he writes in a weekly column.

All vessels less than 20 feet in length constructed after Nov 1, 1972, have a capacity plate permanently affixed, he said. The plate will be in a location clearly visible to the operator while the boat is underway. The plate lists the maximum horsepower, maximum number of persons and maximum load weight.

“By the time you put on an outboard motor, add some hunters, a dog and hunting gear, it is very easy to exceed the weight capacity without knowing it,” Cooper said.

“Exceeding the weight capacity of a boat creates a very dangerous condition,” he added. “Overloading reduces the amount of freeboard, which is the vertical distance measured on the boat’s side from the waterline to the gunwale. Insufficient freeboard can lead to poor handling in rough water, and makes it easier for the boat to swamp.

“Duck hunters are often out in the worst weather where whitecaps or the wake of a passing boat could quickly send water over the gunwale and into the boat. An excited retriever can unexpectedly move in the boat adding to the danger if a boat is overloaded.

“Often wearing waders and heavy coats, a duck hunter would find it very difficult to swim should their boat take on water or capsize. Add in the effects of cold water, and a mishap becomes an immediate life threatening emergency.”

Idaho law requires a life jacket on board for every passenger, and a throw-able (type IV) personal floatation device is required in boats more than 16 feet long. Camouflage life jackets and float coats can be worn while hunting without flaring birds.

Fee increase considered

by 17 national parks

PUBLIC LANDS – The National Park Service is floating a steep increase in entrance fees at 17 of its most popular parks, mostly in the West, to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects.

Visitors to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and other national parks would be charged $70 per vehicle, up from the current fee of $30 for a weekly pass. At others, the hike is nearly triple, from $25 to $70.

The fee increases apparently would not affect visitors holding lifetime annual passes, such as the Senior Pass.

A 30-day public comment period opened Tuesday.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the entrance fee increases will help restore and renovate the park units.

The proposal comes not long after many of the parks that charge entrance fees upped them. The rationale is the same this time around – to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects.

The Park Service estimated deferred maintenance across its sites at $11.3 billion as of September 2016, down from $11.9 billion in 2015.

The Park Service says it expects to raise $70 million a year with the latest proposal at a time when national parks repeatedly have been breaking visitation records and putting a strain on park resources. Nearly 6 million people visited the Grand Canyon last year.

The higher fees would apply during the five busiest, contiguous months. For most, that means May through September when many families are on vacation.

Kevin Dahl, Arizona senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said maintenance costs should fall to Congress, not visitors.

“We’ve supported increases at the parks, they are a huge value for the price of entrance,” he said. “But …we don’t want to price people out of the parks.”

Not all Park Service sites charge entrance fees.

The entrance fee proposal applies to Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Zion in Utah; Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Joshua Tree in California; Grand Teton and Yellowstone in Wyoming; Mount Rainier and Olympic in Washington; Shenandoah in Virginia; Acadia in Maine; Rocky Mountain in Colorado; and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Fees also would go up for pedestrians and motorcyclists. Annual passes for federal lands would be unchanged at $80.


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