Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ATVs and big game donít mix

Idaho recently came within an eyelash of stripping the Idaho Department of Fish and Game of the authority to regulate the use of all-terrain vehicles on public land during hunting seasons.

If the state Senate had not stopped a measure that had been approved by the House, Fish and Game would have had no say on where hunters could operate ATVs during big-game hunting seasons.

That would have been a big mistake.

Unregulated ATV use can harm the big game herds so highly prized by hunters. ATVs also can harm the experience of other hunters on horseback or those who rely on their own muscle and bone to stalk big game.

ATVs are big, gas-powered machines. They can cover far more ground in a day than someone on horseback or on foot, which gives motorized riders a distinct advantage in the chase. They can also push herds excessively and exhaust the physical reserves the animals need to carry them through the winter and to reproduce successfully the next spring.

Fish and Game officials said that if their authority to regulate ATVs was removed, they would have to use other means to manage the big-game herds. Those could include shorter hunting seasons or restrictions on the number of hunters allowed in many areas to compensate for the effects of widespread ATV use.

Idaho needs healthy big game. The herds have plenty to contend with—shrinking habitat, predators, disease and crazy weather events. They don't need man to inflict a form of mechanical predation on them that they are powerless to escape or to counter.

It's Fish and Game's job to protect the herds, and the Senate was wise to let it keep doing it.

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