Rushville Republican

February 7, 2014

Senate Bill 52 - The "Dumbing Down" of Indiana wildlife violations

By Jack Spaulding
Rushville Republican

---- — Our state legislative body is going about the business of streamlining our floundering state judicial system in order to relieve the backlog and pressure on the courts. A partial answer to the court’s overload has been proposed in Senate Bill 52. Senate Bill 52 will make many court involved procedures go away as violations are changed from misdemeanors to infractions. Unfortunately, all of the natural resource related fish and game laws have been targeted to be reduced from misdemeanors to infractions.

The bill in its original form essentially decriminalized all Title 14 laws. In other words, any laws pertaining to our fish and wildlife would be dropped from misdemeanor violations down to infractions. Originally, the only violation remaining a misdemeanor would be Hunting Without Consent of the Landowner.

On Jan. 28, an amendment was added and passed through a committee hearing correcting a number of the problems by reversing various violations back to misdemeanors, but still essentially leaving the majority of all hunting violations as infractions. Below is an example with the amended version defining violations pertaining to the illegal taking of turkeys and deer.

“SECTION 45. IC 14-22-38-3 IS AMENDED TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2014]: Sec. 3. (a) A person who takes a deer or a wild turkey in violation of this article commits a Class B infraction. (b) A person who:(1) knowingly or intentionally takes a deer or a wild turkey in violation of this article; and (2) has a prior conviction or adjudication under this section within the previous ten (10) years; commits a Class C misdemeanor.

As explained to me, refuse to pay the fine or fail to appear for a misdemeanor, you get a warrant issued for your arrest. However, refuse to pay the fine for an infraction, you have the BMV revoking your driver’s license.

Indiana Conservation Officer Max Winchell was able to shed a little more light on the lessening of the severity of breaking many natural resource laws.

“Actually, most all of the laws protecting wildlife are currently misdemeanors and SB 52 would make them infraction violations. Infractions are not jailable offenses nor do they carry any criminal penalties. Infractions are the lowest level citations, and there is no court appearance required. If they do not respond to the summons the court can suspend there drivers licenses. Many of the violators we encounter in natural resource law enforcement do not have drivers license and would not be concerned receiving a citation for an infraction.

“They have also added the words ‘Knowingly’ and ‘Intentionally,’ this could be a huge burden of proof that is not required for any other infraction or most misdemeanors. This is also of concern.”

Indiana has come a long way in our state’s natural resource protection. Now we are seeing a reversal of what has been achieved in 100 years of wildlife enforcement. Initially, it was the strict fines and risk of hard jail time persuading poachers of bygone years to respect and comply with the emerging wildlife laws and regulations. Now, by decreasing the severity of punishment for resource laws, we are creating an atmosphere to diminish the law’s respect by violators, and in turn, we will see an increase in violations.

Urban Deer Guide

The impact of white-tailed deer within urban communities is a growing problem nationwide, including several Indiana communities. City leaders soon find managing the problem can become controversial. In order to help local communities better understand deer and available management options, the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife has put together an online booklet — the Urban Deer Technical Guide.

“The Urban Deer guide was developed to support communities that struggle with urban deer conflicts,” Chad Stewart, DNR’s deer management biologist, said. “Very few topics can be as polarizing as dealing with white-tailed deer in an urban setting. How to resolve these conflicts can cause elected officials many sleepless nights.”

Go to dnr.IN.gov/fishwild/7477.htm and locate the Urban Deer Technical Guide link. The 32-page booklet explores how overabundant deer can impact deer-human interaction, cause ecological damage, and present health issues for humans. It addresses the pros and cons of both lethal and non-lethal management options.

The booklet outlines considerations for developing a successful deer management program and how to set up a monitoring program to assess results. Several examples of special deer reduction programs are cited.

“There’s a lot of great biological information, details on options available to communities, and case studies from here in Indiana,” Stewart said. “If a community is facing this issue but not sure where to begin, this is a great first place to start.”

Hoosier Students Learn Archery

Indiana Conservation Officers have introduced Hoosier schools to a new discipline – target archery. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) is being taught as part of the physical education curriculum in more than 300 Indiana schools and is affecting more than 50,000 students annually.

The DNR Law Enforcement Division has certified more than 800 teachers as NASP instructors. Students participate by shooting a Genesis compound bow at an international competition scoring target.

Students are given an opportunity to join competitive archery teams to represent their schools at tournaments across the state.

“NASP has created an opportunity for anyone to join a team and compete at a high level,” said Outdoor Education Lt. Larry Morrison. “Archery teaches concentration, poise, relaxation and commitment to practice, which translates to a better student in the classroom.”

Indianapolis Public Schools will feature more than 260 students competing at the second annual IPS NASP qualifying tournament on March 8 at John Marshall Community High School from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tournament is open to the public, and admission is charged.

“About 2,200 competitive shooters statewide are attempting to qualify for one the 1,600 spots at this year’s State NASP tournament,” Outdoor Education Coordinator Tim Beck said.

The Indiana State NASP tournament will be at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Champions Pavilion on March 22. For more information, visit indiananasp.com/

‘till next time,

Jack

Readers with questions or comments may contact Jack Spaulding by e-mail at jackspaulding@hughes.net or by writing to him in care of this publication.