Tuesday | February 21, 2017
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Funding questions lead to failure of hunting bill

The state Legislature failed to pass a hunting bill because of questions about funding.

The bill in its final version would have created a statewide hunting advisory commission and established a pilot program on the Big Island that would have involved cooperation between hunters and the state on game management.

Initially, the bill would have required the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to replace hunting lands lost to conservation, but that language was removed after the department said it was unworkable.

Rep. Cindy Evans, who introduced the bill, said a dedicated funding source couldn’t be identified late in the session, which ends today. Lawmakers wanted to tap the wildlife revolving fund, but DLNR said it didn’t have enough money available, she said.

“They were thinking $200,000 a year,” Evans said. “I think that’s a little too much.”

The state House and Senate each passed versions of the bill. It did not make it through conference committee because of the funding concerns.

Evans said options for other funding sources were limited with the session coming to a close, but she is optimistic about the bill’s chances next year.

“I think we are definitely going to move forward on this,” she said.

The bill came as hunters have become more vocal about their concerns with DLNR, which they say favors eradication of game animals instead of management.

Evans, D-Kohala, North Kona, said the pilot program would have required them to work together and find a balance on the issue.

“The hunters can partner with DOFAW (Division of Forestry and Wildlife) and be their conservationists,” she said.

Tony Sylvester, Hawaii County Game Management Advisory Commission chairman, said he is supportive of the bill but would prefer to see a statewide game management plan.

Evans and Sylvester said the hunting community is better organized across the state, and they don’t expect the bill to be a setback.

“We are going to be right back there next year,” Sylvester said. “It was a good learning experience for a lot of us.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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