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House committee recommends hunter privacy

House committee recommends hunter privacy

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BOISE — Some legislators believe hunters deserve a little more privacy than what they get in their duck blinds and camouflage outfits.

The House Resources and Conservation Committee approved 13-3 Tuesday a measure that would allow hunting and fishing license records to be kept under wraps. The proposed legislation would make specific Department of Fish and Game records that identify those holding licenses and tags a secret that can’t be obtained through a public records request. That information is currently a public record.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said it’s intended to keep law-abiding residents from being harassed by people using the information to track them down.

“It’s my belief that one of the main reasons for government is to protect its citizens,” she said, citing the recent case of a wolf hunter who got some nasty e-mails.

The bill also has a provision that would allow information to be released with a person’s written consent.

The proposal drew opposition from proponents of open records and open government.Sydney Sallabanks, a lobbyist with the Idaho Press Club, said the information is vital for reporters to verify claims of trophy catches made by hunters and for the public to check if a possible violator is properly licensed.

Jeremy Pisca, who represents Idaho Allied Dailies, an association of newspapers, echoed that theme. He compared the law’s effort at stopping harassment as “trying to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer.”

“Rather than closing down public records, the better idea is to go after the people doing the harassment,” he said.

Pisca said that hunters and anglers frequently report violators and are aided by being able to check a potential violator through public records.

Legislators questioned why the records should be public.

“Would you explain to me why the public needs to know who purchased a tag?” said Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby. “For the life of me, I can’t understand why you need to know that.”

Pisca said it’s tied to the fundamental principle of open government.

“People out to be able to see their government, he said. “It ought to be transparent.”

Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, who voted in favor of the bill, said it was a difficult choice and that a long-term solution to harassment is still needed because of harassment through the Internet.

Rep. Bert Stevenson, R-Rupert, who chairs the committee, along with Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, and Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, all supported the bill. Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, was absent.

Ben Botkin may be reached at bbotkin@magicvalley.com.

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