The Idaho Senate Resources Committee advanced legislation in a narrow vote of 5-4 to restrict the state’s Fish and Game Department’s authority to regulate hunters on ATVs on backcountry trails. This slim victory doesn’t bode well for the bill’s chances of clearing the full senate.

The measure, which has already been approved by the House, looks to stop the agency from limiting hunters on ATVs to road use in a third of the state’s hunting units.

The Fish and Game Department claims that limiting travel in certain areas is a necessary tool in managing big game and that the vehicles are detrimental to game populations. Opponents say the rules discriminate against hunters with physical handicaps, that the agency doesn’t have the authority to limit ATV usage, and that the rules are confusing.

Another matter of contention on the rules is how subjective they are. Sen. Jeff Tippets, R-Montpelier, told that many hunters in the restricted areas could simply be traveling to and from camp and not necessarily hunting. “How do you know when someone is traveling with a gun whether they’re hunting or not?”

Virgil Moore, director of Fish and Game, said things could change dramatically for hunters in the future if his agency is unable to regulate ATV usage. “Without the motorized hunting rule, I suspect we would see a controlled hunt,” Moore said. “We know our hunters prefer to keep the mix we’ve got of controlled hunts and general hunts.”

What’s your take? Should state game agencies be able to limit ATV use?