BOISE — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is looking at ways to manage the number and distribution of nonresident big game hunters in response to concerns about hunter crowding and congestion.
According to a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, commissioners and Fish and Game managers heard resident hunters express concern about overcrowding during a public comment period on recently approved whitetail and mule deer management plans.
While commissioners can regulate the number of nonresident hunters in big game controlled hunts and in elk zones with limited numbers of tags, they don’t yet have a mechanism to manage the distribution of nonresident hunters participating in general hunts.
To give themselves tools to address overcrowding concerns, the commission recently adopted a proposed rule that would allow it to limit nonresident tags in any elk zone, or big game hunting unit for deer, to a number not less than 10 percent of the previous five-year average of all hunters in the unit or zone. The proposed rule must be approved by the 2020 Legislature before it can take effect.
If approved, the commission could then use the authority to build some sort of system that would limit nonresident hunters in specific units or zones.
But doing so has a cost. Limiting nonresident hunter participation will reduce the amount of money the department brings in from tag sales. To compensate for revenue reductions related to future limits on out-of-state hunters, the department has proposed legislation to Idaho Gov. Brad Little that would increase nonresident fees for the first time since 2009.
Based on fiscal year 2019 license sales, nonresidents contributed 57 percent of all of the department’s license and tag revenue. The proposed nonresident fee increase includes a 10 percent hike for most nonresident fees, with larger increases for big game tags and related items, such as archery and muzzleloader permits. It would also adjust reduced-price licenses, such as those for mentored junior hunters, to a 50 percent discount in relation to the applicable adult item.
Prices for nonresident wolf tags and disabled American veteran tags would not change, and there is no proposed change for resident fees, which increased in 2017.
The new fees, if approved, would take effect in the 2021 licensing year.