The final of seven Arizona Game and Fish public meetings to study ways to protect resident hunting opportunities is Aug. 27 in Kingman. The meetings began Aug. 18 in Pinetop.
The meetings were scheduled at the request of the AGF Commission to collect public input on nine alternatives that had been selected from more than 20 ideas on how to protect Arizona hunters' opportunities. The commission's request was in response to a federal court ruling that declared Arizona's 10-percent cap on non-resident applicants for big game species to be unconstitutional.
The alternatives are:
- Award additional bonus points (loyalty points) for continuous support. These would go to people who have been applying for big game hunts or buying licenses for a designated period of time;
- Award conservation bonus points to individuals who participate in wildlife work projects. There are several variations of this proposal and the department's job will be to consolidate and refine a final proposal for public input;
- Charge up front for applications over the Internet, using electronic fund transfers instead of credit cards, or do away with the online application process altogether;
- Increase license and permit fees which would require legislation;
- Require all big game drawing applications to purchase a hunting license;
- Increase the draw application fees. This also would require legislation;
- Increase the bonus point pass percentage from 10 to 20 percent which would mean setting aside 20 percent of big game permits for individuals with the most bonus points;
- Create commercial and non-commercial big game tags with 90 percent of the tags designated as non-commercial, available only to residents, and 10 percent as commercial, available equally to residents and non-residents. Another version would change the law to completely eliminate commercialization of wildlife to permit reinstatement of the 10-percent nonresident cap.
The department also is accepting public comment at its website azgfd.com. Look under "What's New."
The Game and Fish Commission is expected to make the rule changes needed to implement some or all of the alternatives at its Sept. 17-18 meeting in Safford.
Judge says unconstitutional
When U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield ruled in early July that the state's 10-percent cap on non-resident permits violated the constitution, it forced the AGF commission to revamp the way it issues elk and deer permits.
About five days after the ruling, the commission opted to allocate more than 800 non-resident hunt permits for bull elk and deer to satisfy the judge's ruling. However, that was only a temporary solution and the commission set a course to find a more permanent one.
Local hunter and licensed guide Ty Goodman doesn't agree with Broomfield's ruling.
"I think it's a bad deal," he said. "We live here and we should have the privilege of hunting in the state. If (out-of-state residents) can come here and hunt, we should be able to go to other states and hunt."
Goodman said the judge's ruling will hurt future generations of Arizona hunters."(The ruling) probably means that it will be tougher for my kids to get drawn for a tag," he said. "An answer might be to up the prices to the outsiders."