It is that time again, Hoosier nimrods. Time to dust off those musty
old ideas you have harbored for many years about the laws and regulations
that govern activities related to hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.
That is to say that the first of four meetings of the Department of
Natural Resources Summer Study Committee will be staged Wednesday (July
16) at 10 a.m. in Room 156-A of the Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis.
The Summer Study Committee, as you may recall, is a group of legislators
which each year considers potential laws concerning wildlife and natural
resources be placed before the coming session of the Indiana General Assembly.
This year the committee is chaired by Representative Bob Bischoff, a
Democrat from Lawrenceburg. Rep. Bischoff has been involved in many resources
issues of legislatures past. The outdoor community views Rep. Bischoff
as a knowledgeable lawmaker in matters related to wildlife and natural
resources, sympathetic to such causes.
This first meeting of the committee is billed as an organizational affair--mainly
a stage setting for the other three meetings of the group before the legislature
gets down to brass tacks early next year.
Although the legislature has charged the committee only to consider
the upcoming bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln, and the consolidation of
historical entities of the state, the panel will consider many other potential
Actually, if this first meeting of the panel follows form, the panel
will make few hard decisions now.
However, Dick Mercier, president of the Indiana Sportsmen’s Roundtable,
the state’s largest organization of sporting types, says he will propose
some kind of legislative action that would pave the way to using highway
rights-of-way in the state as wildlife habitat.
Mercier says his proposal will be related to curtailing mowing rights-of-way
on Indiana’s vast network of interstates, federal and state highways.
As this column has maintained for many years (see my archived
column of March 18, 2002), mowing of highway rights of way not only
is very costly in this era of tight money, it also robs wildlife of a place
to live at a time when habitat dwindles.
The time has come--it actually is past--when highway rights-of-way cannot
sit idly, looking pretty and well manicured. There must be many other uses
for this land pilfered by the state in the name of transportation. We should
be taking a hard look at this situation that is more a problem than anyone
seems to realize.
Sure, it is important to have good travel lanes when the family is headed
for Aunt Minnie and Uncle Brad’s place for the family reunion, but roadways
actually use less than half of the land they are covering in Indiana and
Mercier points out that curtailed mowing programs should not impact
on roadway safety, but adds that less mowing would be desirable for many
reasons other than fiscal and creating wildlife habitat.
Another matter that probably will resurface at Wednesday’s meeting of
the panel probably will revolve around the Department of Natural Resources
attempts in recent years to establish a $2.75 fishing license for senior
You may recall recent attempts to increase revenue for the Division
of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) by creating a cut rate fishing license for seniors
who for many years have fished free.
As this column has explained many times in the last few years, the big
loss of revenue by the DFW in this scenario comes in the fact that Indiana’s
share of federal funding for fisheries programs is roughly $1-million less
because seniors do not buy a license to fish.
This column has maintained that the worst feature of the whole affair
lies in the shameful way state government gives away fishing rights while
allowing the DFW (and all who fish) to pay the price for its political