The Wild Side.April 22, 2012

Lots of us older folks grew up with our parents’ adage an almost constant in our ears: Politely stated, it’s “The road to ruin is paved with good intentions.”

It’s a saying we should repeat weekly beginning just about the time every spring when our State Legislature convenes. And it can be applied this year.

There are all sorts of good intentions in House Bill 233. There are methods afforded in this bill by which landowners can control an increasing statewide feral-hog problem, and the State House members apparently believed this piece of legislation could accomplish that.

On the surface a bill that, in its engrossed version, “allows night hunting of nuisance animals year-round on private property” reads well until you get to the details. (Which brings to mind another adage: The devil is in the details.)

The bill further reads, “On private property, the landowner, or his lessee or agent, may take outlaw quadrupeds, nutria, or beaver during nighttime hours at any time of year and may do so with or without the aid of dogs” adds to previous state law that makes it OK to take these animals at night with lights, infrared or laser “sighting devices, or night-vision scopes.

Another requirement commands the landowner to notify the sheriff in the area that this activity will occur.

It’s the “with or without dogs” words that become a problem and complete the “road to ruin” part of the adage.

Where in this legislation is the provision that the use of dogs will be banned during the still-hunt-only portion of the deer seasons in the state eight deer hunting areas?

While we can reasonably assume that most deer hunters will not engage in running dogs at night, we can also reasonably assume that there are folks who will.

That’s the problem: Deer hunters across the state should take note that at any time a “landowner, or his lessee or agent” will be able to turn dogs loose year-round anywhere in the state, and there will be some deer hunters who will use this to their advantage, especially those who claim their deer “go nocturnal” almost from the first day they climb into their deer stands.

The House approved the bill 91-6, no doubt with all good intentions.

Let’s hope our State Senate takes a closer look at what could be the aftermath of all those good intentions.

Big win, part deux

For those who champion our state’s coastal restoration efforts, Wednesday was big. The U.S. House passed the Restore Act as part of a transportation bill. The Senate approved a similar bill earlier this year.

Now, with Clean Water Act penalty fines from the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster forthcoming, Restore heads to a joint conference to iron our differences between the House and Senate versions to come up with an act the president can sign. Restore guarantees that 80 percent of the fines levied will go to the five Gulf States.

Wednesday was a giant step for our state.