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Friday ó February 13, 2004


Hunters push
for expansion of restrictions on
off-road vehicles

"Iíve been on the commission for about eight years, and this is probably the year with less high-profile concerns than most," Wood said. "But the problems we have identified are here."

ó FRED WOOD, Magic Valley Region Fish and Game commissioner

Express Staff Writer

Local residents said Wednesday that restrictions on off-road vehicles during hunting seasons should be expanded.

The majority of local residents at an open house meeting of the Jerome Region of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game overwhelmingly supported an expansion of the departmentís motorized restrictions for hunting units throughout the region.

"About 75 percent of people were in favor of adding units 45 and 52 (both in the Bennett Hills area south of Fairfield) to the motorized restrictions," said Kelton Hatch, the regionís conservation educator. "A lot of people said that all units should be included."

Fish and Game Commissioner Fred Wood. Express photo by David N. Seelig

The meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 11, was the first of three the department is hosting this week throughout the region. Each winter, the region solicits input from residents and hunters on big game management adjustments that are proposed. The region forms recommendations based on the input they collect and forward those proposals to the Fish and Game Commission.

Two years ago, the department implemented off-road vehicle restrictions in Unit 47 in the South Hills south of Twin Falls and expanded the restrictions to units 48 and 49, which surround the Wood River Valley, last year.

"Everybody loved it," Hatch said. "Weíre at over 70 percent in favor of it, and a lot of them want it expanded."

The regulations restrict hunting from off-road vehicles to designated roads only.

The Magic Valley Regionís Fish and Game Commissioner, Fred Wood, said there were probably fewer high-profile issues on the regionís plate this year than in previous years. It showed in the meetingís attendance.

Only 17 hunters attended, compared with 123 last winter.

"Iíve been on the commission for about eight years, and this is probably the year with less high-profile concerns than most," Wood said. "But the problems we have identified are here."

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Regional Conservation Educator Kelton Hatch, left, said meeting attendance at this winterís Fish and Game open house in Hailey was poor compared with previous years. Express photo by David N. Seelig

Wood said deer counts throughout the region have shown healthy populations, except for in the southeast part of the state. Deer numbers throughout Southeast Idaho have been slipping for several years, he said.

He said elk populations are also doing well.

Hatch said that, though attendance was poor, the department personnel are looking forward to gleaning more information at hearings in Burley and Twin Falls this week.

"We would have liked to have had a better turnout. These public meetings are very crucial for us," he said. "We canít make any changes until we have a consensus among the sportsmen."


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