February 1, 2018

Idaho: Bill Introduced to Protect Hunting, Fishing Access

On January 16, the Idaho House Resources and Conservation Committee introduced a bill, based on a legislative proposal developed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, that would further protect hunting and fishing opportunities for Idaho’s sportsmen and women on private and public lands in the state. A hearing on the bill was heard in the Committee on January 25.

The bill, House Bill 356, “…would provide protections from recreational liability to parties, such as the Department (of Fish and Game), who fund, maintain, improve, or hold conservation easement on lands made available for public recreational use without direct charge to individuals for access.” This is in keeping with the state’s existing protections from recreational liability that are currently provided to any landowner who does not charge individuals for recreational access.  

As noted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, failure to institute such protections may expose the Department to recreational liability “…at potentially significant cost for supporting hunting, fishing, and trapping through actions such as funding access and providing infrastructure, such as docks, on lands the Department does not own.”  The Department frequently partners with other government agencies, private landowners, and organizations, to help facilitate greater access to lands not necessarily owned by Department via providing funding, maintenance, or site improvements for public access sites.

By providing immunity against unintentional injuries occurring on lands to those who fund, maintain, improve, or hold conservation easements on lands made available for public recreational use, state agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and individuals will be further incentivized to enter into cooperative agreements to allow increased hunting and angling access on lands in the state. People who no longer hunt or fish have consistently cited lack of access to places to hunt and fish among the primary reasons for giving up the sport, necessitating the need to explore new options for increasing access to both public and private lands.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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