"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Committee Studies Wildlife and Natural Resource Issues
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Scifres

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 legislative matters.

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 elsewhere.

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 citizens.

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 benevolence.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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