Hunter Discrimination on Federal Land?

Ambitious legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week is aimed at reducing the increasingly high costs associated with non-resident big game hunting permits on federally owned lands located primarily in the Western U.S.Elk

On Tuesday, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) announced his introduction and sponsorship of the Teddy Roosevelt Bring Back our Public Lands Act, a bill that would limit the amount states could charge those from other states who hunt big game exclusively on U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management lands.

Congressman Hunter—who is also an announced candidate for President on the GOP ticket--is an avid deer and elk hunter. He said he believes the inflating cost of elk and deer-hunting tags to out-of-state hunters is a direct affront to the average American who would like to hunt big game on public land in the West.

“Today, bureaucracies in state governments are closing down the outdoor opportunities for average Americans,” Hunter said “They are slamming the door on outdoor families the old fashioned way: with outrageous fees for non-resident hunters, even when the hunting is done exclusively on federal land.”

Hunter cited non-resident license fees of $281 for deer and $481 for elk in Wyoming; $301 for deer and $501 for elk in Colorado; $643 for deer or elk in Montana; and $355 for deer and $766 for elk in New Mexico.

“Certainly, individual states have the right to regulate the private land and state-owned property within their boundaries. No one quarrels with that,” Hunter said. “But placing prohibitive fees on hunting that is conducted on federal public lands quickly becomes a method of exclusion.”

It is Rep. Hunter’s contention that the bill’s namesake, President Theodore Roosevelt, intended for federal lands to be shared equally by all American sportsmen when he signed legislation creating 42 million acres of national forest in 1909.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Rep. Hunter told me he supports the draw and quota systems utilized by many Western state game agencies and understands their importance. He said his bill is not intended to impact state management practices.

As currently worded, the Teddy Roosevelt Bring Back our Public Lands bill would limit the amount a state could charge for non-resident tags when the hunt is carried out exclusively on USFS or BLM property to $200.

Rep. Hunter said he would remain flexible on the maximum charge amount as the bill goes through the legislative process.