Keep hunting licenses in states’ hands
December 15, 2004
Are state rules on hunting licenses often fundamentally unfair to nonresidents? Yes. Are there good reasons? Absolutely.
The hunting world has been in a mild uproar for several months now since the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that states can’t discriminate against nonresidents when it comes to issuance of hunting licenses. Although the case, brought by professional outfitters from New Mexico who wanted to hunt in Arizona, had to do with the allocation of hunting permits, it’s assumed the ruling would have a broad interpretation as to fees and seasons.
Senators Harry Reid of Nevada and Ben Nelson of Nebraska are sponsoring a bill in Congress to give states the authority to set their own rules – something we support, even if we don’t think it should be necessary.
The appeals court’s logic rested on interstate commerce, because that was the only arena in which the arguments brought by the outfitters began to make sense. From all others – states’ rights, wildlife management, tradition and historical fairness to resident hunters – there is no case.
Even if you’re not a hunter, anyone who has wanted to go fishing in another state knows you pay a higher fee for a license than a resident would. Nothing wrong with that.
There is no “right” to hunt or fish in another state. It’s a privilege. And it should be left to the expertise of state wildlife commissions to decide how they want to manage their own resources.
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Game and seasons obviously vary greatly from state to state, and so do the expenses and philosophy of managing wildlife. A federal policy won’t work.
But should the federal government be able to force a state to treat residents and nonresidents equally? One result would be to wipe out the system in Nevada in which hunters who don’t draw a tag get increasingly better odds.
We think hunters, by and large, have no quarrel with the state-by-state system. They have much more confidence in their own wildlife divisions setting the rules. Reid and Nelson’s bill would put that common sense into law.