Valley City Times-Record
Legislators and constituents say outdoor interests have fared well so far in the session, despite some contention
BISMARCK – In this session, legislators say they’ve balanced the preservation of North Dakota’s tradition of hunting and outdoor enjoyment with protecting the state’s natural resources, agriculture, and safety.
Bills relating to hunting, outdoor sports, and farming have been passed in one chamber and made their way to the next in the second half of the session.
The Energy and Natural Resources committees received several bills regarding hunting this session, with some sparking controversy.
Serving on the committee, Sen. Greg Kessel, R-Belfield, said in an interview, “All parties are coming to the table” for hunting legislation.
Among the hunting bills that have passed the house are HB 1151 and HB 1233.
HB 1233 would allow 11, 12, and 13-year-old youth hunters to participate in the regular deer hunting season, as opposed to the current two week-long youth season from Sept. 16 to 25.
Requirements of HB 1233 include that youth must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other authorized individual to hunt.
The bill passed the house with a vote of 87 yeas and 3 nays.
A more contentious bill, HB 1151, would allow the use of baiting for big game animals for lawful hunting on private property.
Introduced by Rep. Paul Thomas, R-Velva, the bill is a reaction to the 2021 provision by the ND Game and Fish Department restricting the use of hunting big game over bait or placing bait for the purpose of hunting in almost the entire state of North Dakota.
“I hosted a number of meetings with the Game and Fish Department and local constituents,” Thomas said in an interview. “We just could not get to a compromise, and that’s why I introduced the bill.”
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department instituted the provision based on concerns for the spreading of chronic wasting disease, a disease that affects deer and other wildlife including elk and moose.
Casey Anderson, wildlife chief for the department, expressed concerns over the passing of HB 1151 in testimony and an interview.
“If it passes, it’s going to affect the future health of the deer herd,” Anderson said. “It will remove one of our tools to manage deer herd health.”
In an interview, D.J. Randolph, a volunteer for Prairie Grit Adaptive Sports, said that restricting the use of baiting puts youth hunters and handicapped individuals at a disadvantage.
When it comes to those hunters, Randolph said, “We can’t go to where the deer are, we have to get them to come to us.”
HB 1151 passed the House 7618.
Another outdoor sports bill, HB 1366, also came before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It would allow barefoot skiers to wear a wetsuit that is designed for protection and flotation instead of a Coast Guard-approved life vest.
With a life vest on board the towing vessel, a wetsuit would allow for more flexibility for the skier, advocates said. HB 1366 passed the House 89-5.
The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmont, said in an interview that he feels positive about the outdoor bills brought forward this session. “I haven’t seen anything that’s really controversial,” he said. ‘I think we can come to terms on everything.”
To track any of these bills, visit ndlegis.gov.