Idaho's big-game tag auction bill draws fire

May 11 2012 - 9:37am

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Mule deer
Mule deer

RIGGINS, Idaho -- Idaho Fish and Game commissioners debated Thursday the extent to which they should protest a new law that establishes as many as a dozen big-game auction tags.

The law was passed in the 2012 legislative session over the objections of the commission. It gives commissioners the authority to issue as many as a dozen auction tags -- up to three each for elk, deer and antelope, and a maximum of one each for moose, mountain goat and bighorn sheep.

Commissioner Kenny Anderson of Rigby said he was angry legislators passed the law and he led arguments for stalling action to implement it.

"They just took a road-grader over the top of us," he said of lawmakers.

Anderson said hunters ought to have a chance to weigh in on it before commissioners take any action on it. Instead of starting a process that would establish rules governing how the auction tags will be sold, Anderson said they should wait up to a year and collect public comments.

"I didn't like anything about this bill from the minute it came out," he said.

Bob Barowsky of Fruitland said the bill was "shoved down our throats," but noted setting up the auction rules is different than actually issuing tags, and taking no action might cause legislators to pass a more draconian version of the law.

"They are going to come down on us real hard and that scares me worse, gentlemen," Barowsky said. "I feel we need to start taking proactive measures."

A similar bill failed to pass the 2011 Legislature. However, it mandated that the commission issue a certain number of tags to be auctioned each year. The 2012 version, which was approved, gives the commission discretion to decide how many, if any, tags to issue. Thursday's debate wasn't over how many tags to issue. That decision will come later. Instead they argued whether or not to give the department authority to draft auction rules and regulations.

"I want to be clear this is process, not implementation," Commissioner Fred Trevey said.

Commissioner Randy Budge of Pocatello cautioned against taking any steps that would appear to be snubbing legislators, even if commissioners don't like the law.

"We will get an opportunity to fall on our sword and fight with the Legislature down the road," he said.

Commissioners voted to give the department authority to set up auction rules, with Anderson casting the lone no vote.

In other business, Budge was elected as the new chairman of the commission and Barowsky was elected vice chairman. It was the final meeting for commissioners Wayne Wright of Twin Falls and Gary Powers of Salmon. Both will soon come to the end of their terms.

"I've been humbled and honored to be part of this outfit," Wright said.

Barker may be contacted at ebarkerlmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter ezebarker.

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(c)2012 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

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