Board wants to extend island hunt, implement annual reviews

May 14 2012 - 2:42pm

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The Board of Utah State Parks and Recreation may adopt a rule that would extend the annual Antelope Island State Park hunt for mule deer (seen here last year) and bighorn sheep through 2017. (Standard-Examiner file photo)
The Board of Utah State Parks and Recreation may adopt a rule that would extend the annual Antelope Island State Park hunt for mule deer (seen here last year) and bighorn sheep through 2017. (Standard-Examiner file photo)

SALT LAKE CITY -- In gaining a voice and control over the Antelope Island hunts beginning in 2013, the Board of Utah State Parks and Recreation is considering adopting a rule to extend the annual island hunt for mule deer and bighorn sheep through 2017.

By extending the hunt an additional five years, the board is hoping to be able to implement some of its own rules, including an annual review of the hunt by the public, wildlife biologists and Davis County officials.

The hunts will be controlled by the authority of Utah legislation through the fall.

The intent is to have the new rule pick up where House Bill 3, approved by the Utah Legislature in 2010, leaves off.

That piece of legislation kicked off the hunt by directing the Division of State Parks and Recreation to host this past fall a one-time hunt for mule deer and bighorn sheep at Antelope Island State Park.

The Legislature, through a set of bills during the 2011 and 2012 sessions, then added an additional hunt for fall 2012, but because of the language in the 2012 bill, a 2013 hunt needs to be authorized, officials say.

The nine-member State Parks and Recreation Board is to address a proposal at its Aug. 7 meeting that would allow it to have more local control over the hunt, versus having it rest with legislation approved by lawmakers on a year-to-year basis.

A time for that board meeting has not been set.

What the board essentially wants to have with the proposal is the yearly decision to determine the need for a hunt, and its date, after receiving comments from the public, and county and wildlife officials, said Deena Loyola, State Parks and Recreation communications coordinator.

But board members at Thursday's meeting requested that language in the proposal be "tweaked" before having it brought back to them at their next meeting, Loyola said.

"Overall, the board likes the idea of being able to hear from the public, hear from the biologist and have more voice in the decision making," she said of the board's general support for the rule.

Those who spoke to the proposal at Thursday's meeting were state wildlife biologist Steven Bates, Antelope Island State Park Manager Jeremy Shaw, Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler and Davis Area Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Barbara Riddle.

The Davis Area CVB, which markets the park for in-state and out-of-state visitors, publicly opposes the island hunts, Riddle said.

Friends of Antelope Island, a nonprofit group that raises funds through activities and donations to enhance the state park, also opposes the hunts.

Currently, two permits for both the mule deer and bighorn sheep are available, one permit for each species auctioned off to the highest bidder, the other permits obtained through a public draw.

The permits for the fall 2011 hunts generated $283,671 in revenue for state parks, a portion of which went to improve island habitat.

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