Bear lovers aren’t backing down after getting mauled in last year’s election.
On Monday, the Idaho Coalition United for Bears filed another initiative that bans bear-baiting and hunting bears with dogs.
This time, the group isn’t calling for a complete ban on hound-assisted hunting, just a moratorium from May 1 through Aug. 31.
“We have made every effort we can think of toward compromise,” said Lynn Fritchman of I-CUB. “This new initiative allows the spring season to continue … We made several concessions.”
The next general election is more than a year away, but I-CUB and several other organizations had to make today’s deadline to have its initiative considered under Idaho’s old initiative process.
After today, any new initiatives filed in the state will require signatures of at least 6 percent of the voters in at least half of Idaho’s 44 counties. Initiatives filed before today need 41,355 signatures from voters anywhere in the state.
Members of the opposing group, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Defense Fund, said I-CUB might as well concede the election right now.
“They were defeated two to one in the last election,” said bear hunter Ed Lehman. “All they did was narrow the scope. … We’re going to stand on the same things we stood on last time: We support the professional management of wildlife.”
Fritchman said his group might have held back from launching another initiative process had the hunting group been willing to sit down and discuss the issue.
The Department of Fish and Game expressed willingness to host a symposium on bear management, but the Sportsmen’s Heritage Defense Fund was resistant, he said.
“They refused point-blank to participate,” Fritchman said. The Fish and Game Commission then backed out of the symposium, leaving I-CUB with no choice but to launch another initiative drive, he said.
Lehman said hunters didn’t want their money going to a symposium after they already had invited I-CUB to a conference of their own in February.
“We invited these folks to it, we paid for it, and they declined to come,” he said. “We paid for ours, and they pay for theirs. They’re not spending sportsmen dollars to present their views.”
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