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'That's a contentious one'

Courtesy Game and Fish Dept. The baiting of big game is just one of the issues the N.D. legislature will deal with over the coming week.

With the crossover date looming on Feb. 20, the fate of outdoors related bill in the North Dakota House and Senate has been, or will be, determined by the end of next week.

Terry Steinwand the director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said there aren't as many bills as in the past so they've been able to focus on a few so far this year.

"This is one of those sessions when you look at it over all ... I think we have 33 or 34 bills or resolutions that we're dealing with," Steinwand said. "Now compare that to 2003 when we had over 65. We're sitting in pretty good shape in terms of what we have to deal with this session."

Steinwand said the session has been pretty much business as usual this time around with a few bills that stick out.

"Most of them are pretty good," Steinwand said. "We try to head off the ones that we don't think are needed, or are really going to impact the resources, or the sportsmen and women of the state."

The appropriation of $59.6 million to the department for the next biennium is one item the Game and Fish is watching with particular interest along with two bills that deal with apprenticeship hunting and one that deals with the baiting of big game.

Senate Bill 2351, which would prohibit an individual from feeding big game and hunting big game over bait, is scheduled for a hearing before the Natural Resources Committee today at 9 a.m.

"That's a contentious one," Steinwand said. "We're totally putting our testimony on science on that one, which is a disease issue, there's an awful lot of literature on that one."

A bill that started out contentious, but ended up passing the Senate by a vote of 47-0 was SB 2165, which would allow individuals who are 16 years of age or older who have not taken the hunter education course to be issued an apprentice hunter validation, entitling them to hunt small game and deer for only one license year in a lifetime without taking the hunter's safety course.

Sen. Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, said the bill originally met some opposition because people thought it was a way to bypass the course, but once it was explained that it was simply a one year exemption it gained almost universal support.

"It's about getting people who are maybe on the fence about hunting," Krauter said. "Once they've experiences it and they understand it they can go take hunter's safety and they're hooked for life then."

A similar bill, HB 1227 was passed by the House by a vote of 74-20.

"It passed the Senate unanimously and it looks like we have a hybrid version of it coming over from the House, so we just need to get her done," Krauter said.

Steinwand said for the most part the legislators are good to work with even though there are those times when you grit your teeth wondering how someone could have a certain point of view.

"The vast majority of these people are very good to work with, they are intelligent people. They have tough jobs," Steinwand said.

Steinwand said that's why it's important the legislators hear from the people of North Dakota instead of the Game and Fish Department all the time.

"When it comes to something that doesn't deal with science our attitude is since we don't have good information on what the public wants we're telling the public that's when you have to contact your legislators," Steinwand said. "The public just absolutely needs to be involved."