Hunting, trapping rules back before lawmakersBy DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader July 17. 2018 9:06PM
CONCORD — A controversial proposal to expand the live trapping of snowshoe hare and dozens of other rules governing the hunting and trapping of wildlife in New Hampshire will be up for another vote by a panel of lawmakers on Thursday.
A good turnout of animal rights activists and members of the state’s hunting and trapping community is expected as the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules, composed of representatives and senators, convenes for the second time to vote on the wildlife regulations.
Failure to approve them this time could jeopardize the upcoming hunting seasons, according to the executive director of Fish and Game.
As it considered the new rules, the 11-member Fish and Game Commission’s public hearings attracted hundreds of individuals, as members of the N.H. Humane Society and Voices of Wildlife in New Hampshire squared off against groups like the N.H. Trappers Association and their supporters in a battle for the direction of the commission and the state’s wildlife management practices.
The hunting and trapping community got the support of the commission earlier this month, when it voted 7-2 to seek JLCAR approval to expand live trapping of snowshoe hare and declined to endorse a limit on fox trapping and hunting proposed by the agency staff.
The commission vote on July 2 came after the first hearing before JLCAR in June, when the lawmakers kicked the rules proposal back to the commission for further public input.
Representatives and senators were inundated with public comment they claim the commission did not adequately consider.
Public hearings on the new rules had been held on March 30 in Lancaster, April 2 in Keene and April 3 in Concord, attracting a combined 170 people, but in response to the JLCAR demand for additional public input, the commission scheduled a fourth hearing on June 20.
That hearing at Fish and Game headquarters in Concord attracted more than 300 people in the largest turnout ever seen by Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau in his 11 years on the job. The first round of hearings generated 105 written comments, while the June 20 hearing triggered another 368, for a total of 473 comments.
The most controversial rule, according to Normandeau, was regarding the live capture of snowshoe hare to be used in training hunting dogs.
“This proposal created substantial and opinionated public comment at all of the four public hearings and constituted a substantial portion of the written comment received,” Normandeau writes in his update to the JLCAR.
The rules as first presented to JLCAR in June included expansion of snowshoe hare trapping opportunities and a new three-bag limit on the fox hunt. The commission had also received testimony from the Humane Society regarding restrictions on coyote hunting and trapping during birthing season.
After its second review of the rules, the commission decided to stick with the expansion of the snowshoe hare trapping, voted to reverse its earlier decision in favor of the limit on the fox hunt, and decided not to take up the Humane Society request regarding the coyote hunt.
Normandeau urged the JLCAR to approve the new rules, and warned that failure to do so will have “unpredictable impacts on the social and economic aspects of the upcoming hunting seasons.”
He says the commission cannot accommodate both sides in the debate.
“There is a wide range of opinion reflected in the text of the comments and no general agreement between affected groups as to what policy should be implemented in the management of some species,” according to Normandeau.
“In fact, opponents of the proposal argue for adoption of rules that are the polar opposite of that advocated by proponents of the proposal. There is no common ground between the groups with respect to the live trapping of snowshoe hare or as to the trapping of fur-bearer species, and thus no language that could be proposed to accommodate all concerned.”