Fenced In: DNR Will Fight To End Canned Hunting, Enforce New Rule

Gunbang1The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly revisits the canned hunting issue, which had drifted off the radar for a few months but now appears headed back to court:

"State officials have shifted gears and decided to fight a lawsuit over a rule banning high-fenced hunting preserves in Indiana.

"The Department of Natural Resources had entered into settlement negotiations in August 2006, but more than a year later – and with another deer hunting season under way – the legal wrangling continues.

"The issue began to fester in the late 1990s when several facilities sprang up under the guise of a game breeder’s license. The owners charged thousands of dollars for hunters to come in and shoot prized deer bred specifically for large antlers.

"But it came to a head in 2005 when former DNR Director Kyle Hupfer announced he would implement an emergency – then permanent – rule banning these operations from the state.

"The purpose was to clarify ambiguities in current regulations and establish new ones regarding what some refer to as canned hunting – or paying to shoot deer behind fences.

"Hundreds of deer farms around the state possess white-tailed deer and other animals under a game breeder’s permit, but only a few provide hunting opportunities.

"Hupfer determined that while the permit allows for the possession, breeding and sale of white-tailed deer, it does not authorize the hunting or purposeful killing of deer maintained under that license.

"Preserve owners disagreed, saying they were given permission to open up by former DNR officials.

"Rodney Bruce, the owner of Whitetail Bluff in Corydon, sued in 2005 and received an injunction preventing the DNR from enforcing the ban on his property.

"The General Assembly tried to intervene in 2006 but failed, which prompted negotiations to start in earnest."

Fair Treatment: No Place For Smokes Amid Corn, Cows And Summer Fun

NosmokingThe Star's Matt Tully wants to end smoking at the Indiana State Fair. TDW agrees. Your thoughts?

"Other than developing a way to give a deep-fried Snickers the nutritional content of a Granny Smith apple, there just aren't too many ways you could make the Great Indiana State Fair any better.

"But here's one way: a full and exemption-free ban on smoking at the State Fairgrounds. No smoking on the midway. No lighting up outside the cattle barns. No puffing away by the corn dog shacks.

"No smoking. Period."

Don't Shoot: Commission Sticks With Rule Allowing Handguns In Parks

Gunbang1It's been a few months since the gun crowd had something to chew on. Have at it:

"Gun owners would still be permitted to carry licensed handguns onto Department of Natural Resources land, a state panel has ruled.

"Handguns were permitted on all DNR properties under the rule that then-DNR Director Kyle Hupfer made effective in September 2006.

"The Indiana Natural Resources Commission on Tuesday approved the regulation that still must be reviewed by the state attorney general and approved by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

"Among 400 responses from the public on the rule, those supporting allowing guns in state parks outnumbered those against by a ratio of 3-to-1, the DNR said.

"'The DNR points out that individuals opposed to the carrying of handguns in state parks interact, without incident, every day with individuals legally in possession of handguns in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores and shopping malls,' the DNR wrote in recommending the change."

Nobody Can Do Me No Harm: Will Guv Approve Handguns In State Parks?

Gunbang1As we move onward into the 2008 election cycle, it'll be interesting to see how the Guv handles the issue of handguns in parks now that he has the authority to approve or deny a permanent change to the rule. Pat Guinane of the Times of Northwest Indiana writes:

"Rita DeBard is licensed to carry a Colt .45 revolver and doesn't want to give up that right while visiting the state park adjacent to her home.

"'I carry one for personal protection,' DeBard said Tuesday night at the first of two public hearings on a proposal to allow handguns in state parks and wildlife areas.

"'Basically, what you're doing is denying me the ability to carry my gun from my house to that state property,' DeBard said.

"The state allows licensed Hoosiers to carry concealed handguns in most public places, but Indiana's 24 state parks had been off limits to deter game poachers.

"A preliminary rule approved in November lifted the long-standing ban. State bureaucrats are now taking public testimony before deciding whether to permanently allow handguns in state parks.

"'These ought to be safe zones,' said Robert Riester, an Indianapolis minister who drove 70 miles to speak at Tuesday's hearing at the Miami County Fairgrounds. 'I think the state parks are sufficiently an Indiana treasure that we ought to let them be safe places for families and children.'

"Riester said a group of church leaders has asked Gov. Mitch Daniels to quash the proposed rules. The temporary handgun policy expires this fall, and the governor must sign off on any permanent rule. Riester said he and other church leaders worry about the safety of youth group outings they chaperone at state parks."

Recycled Goods: Guv Appoints Former DNR Chief Hupfer To Chair State Fair

Cornguy_6Former Department of Natural Resources Director Kyle Hupfer has been named chair of the Indiana State Fair Commission. You know, TDW was just thinking it's high time we strip-mine the dairy barn, build a hotel on horse track, shoot the world's largest boar in his pen and sell guns to visitors so they can feel safe on the midway rides.

Just kidding.

Penned In: Canned Hunt Backers Buck Public Opinion, Push For New Law

Thumbsdown_8 Fort Wayne Journal Gazette outdoors editor Phil Bloom has some harsh words for Indiana backers of canned hunting, which already has been outlawed in a number of Western states:

"Montana banned canned hunting of big-game animals a couple of years ago.

"So did Wyoming.

"There’s a push to do the same in North Dakota and Idaho.

"So, how come we can’t get it done in Indiana?

"Wait, you say. Didn’t Kyle Hupfer, the former director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, tell us a couple years ago that he was banning the killing of white-tailed deer and other animals in fenced enclosures?

"Well, of course he did. And the Natural Resources Commission approved his order. And the state’s attorney general signed off on it. And Gov. Mitch Daniels added his signature.

"Done deal? The ban has never been enforced, in part because of a lawsuit by one canned hunt operator.

"As a consequence, canned hunts continue under a free pass as state government stumbles along at negotiating a settlement while backpedaling out of its commitment to public opinion by doing nothing.

"Although no scientific polling was ever done in Indiana, the citizens of North Dakota have expressed their opinions. The Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune reported Jan. 18 on a telephone survey conducted by the Bureau of Government Affairs at the University of North Dakota found that 75 percent of those responding would vote for a ban on high-fence shooting.

"My guess is a similar poll would find that Hoosiers pretty much agree.

"But instead of legislation to ban canned hunts, what do we get?

"Another effort to legalize them.

"Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, who backs canned hunting with such regularity you’d think he’s mainlining Metamucil, has helped introduce a bill to strip the DNR of regulatory authority over captive deer and eliminate the state-required game breeder’s permit for deer farmers.

"These guys never give up, and sooner or later they’re bound to get something passed."

News In A Snap: Some People Shop, Some People Read About Politics

Newspapers_2 TDW has myriad last-minute things to do before Christmas, so here, in no particular order, are a few random stories for you to play with in her absence today.

The Indy Star has five questions for incoming Hoosier Lottery Director Kathryn Densborn. Otherwise known as Five Scripted Answers From The Guv's Office.

Lesley Stedman Weidenbener provides an overview of the Guv's 2007 legislative agenda in her weekly column for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The Guv's plan to import prisoners from California to make an extra few bucks appears to be dead -- in part because the prisoners aren't volunteering and in part because there were too many concerns and objections.

Steve Ford of the Evansville Courier & Press lauds the Department of Natural Resources' decision not to strip-mine in a local wildlife area.

The Indianapolis Business Journal, per usual, carries several good pieces. There's one on the advertorial flap at the Indy Star. And there's a good one on the ups and downs of the Guv's Lottery privatization scheme.

Expert In The Field: DNR Leader, Staff Should Have Wildlife Experience

Fish_1 Phil Potter, a columnist for the Evansville Courier & Press, thinks those who lead the Department of Natural Resources should actually have some experience in the field, not just be political appointees who are owed something by the Guv. Interesting concept. What next? You actually want the head of the Family and Social Services Administration to have needy Hoosiers' interests at heart? In all seriousness, this is a good idea. Let's give it some consideration.

"Question: What kind of wildlife background does it take to become Indiana's director of natural resources?

"Answer: Whatever suits the governor.

"Gov. Mitch Daniels' original appointee was Kyle Hupfer, a practicing lawyer. When Hupfer resigned last week, he was replaced by Robert Carter Jr., a two-time Clay County sheriff and current head of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' law enforcement division.

"While Gov. Daniels touted Carter as being an excellent law officer, he failed to elaborate on how this qualifies him to effectively manage Indiana's wildlife.

"For years, Indiana has consistently created IDNR directors through patronage rather than hire accredited wildlife professionals.

"Other states have seen the light and ended wildlife politics with great results. In Tennessee, patronage ceased in 1970 when a dedicated conservation officer became the wildlife director and made sweeping policy changes.

"Perhaps the most crucial change was when all Tennessee Department of Conservation candidates, including conservation officers, were required to have accredited college wildlife degrees.

"This new policy created a steady professional work force that remains loyal to their jobs. As a result, more and more highly qualified wildlife biologists and managers from other states are vying for jobs in Tennessee."

Round And Round: Exodus Of Guv's Staff Brings Up Revolving Door Policy

Revolvingdoor_1 Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette takes a look at the state's new revolving door ethics rule in light of the myriad folks who keep bailing out of the Guv's administration. TDW does find it somewhat ironic that a former Daniels staffer would take a whack at prior administrations for not having a revolving door policy when it doesn't appear that the policy is holding up members of the current administration in the slightest.

"Key executive staffers and agency heads have been resigning at an increased rate in recent months, leaving Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration and heading back to the private sector nearly two years into the governor’s tenure.

"The departures include internal public policy advisers, leaders of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Department of Natural Resources, and the governor’s chief of staff and communications director.

"And state ethics laws sometimes prohibit some lobbying activities and institute other post-employment restrictions.

"'I don't see it as a big deal. The governor is very clear that he wanted to have the highest ethical standards for his administrations,' said Jason Barclay, who served as Daniels’ special counsel and policy director for public safety until July. 'It’s a standard part of doing business these days both in the public and private sector.'

"When Daniels took office in January 2005 he didn’t think the ethics rules were tough enough and his administration instituted several changes – with help from the legislature.

"Barclay helped rewrite some of the rules, saying he reviewed post-employment restrictions in other states and drafted similar ones for Indiana.

"'It's another example of the state being woefully behind in its ethical standards when others have been abiding by them,' he said.

"Daniels initially proposed a one-year prohibition on any lobbying for those who left the executive branch, but legislators watered down the law so staffers could immediately lobby the legislative branch but not the executive.

"Individuals working in state government who negotiate or administer contracts, make regulatory or licensing decisions or are also bound by additional state rules, said Laura Forest, director of the Indiana State Ethics Commission.

"Barclay and Harry Gonso, recently departed chief of staff and senior counsel, both recognized possible limitations and sought a formal advisory opinion from the ethics commission on their new employment.

"'My advice would always be to seek an advisory opinion,' Forest said. 'It's preventative, free legal advice. It’s a great service we love to do. It’s our bread and butter.'

"Plus, it could avoid a range of penalties in the future, from the canceling of a contract to civil fines, reprimands and being barred from future state employment. If the activity was egregious enough, there might also be criminal sanctions.

"For Barclay and Gonso – both lawyers – seeking the opinion made sense."

Lump Of Coal: Newspaper Urges New DNR Chief To Reverse Strip-Mining Plan

Coal_1Outgoing Department of Natural Resources chief Kyle Hupfer can't seem to catch a break on the editorial pages. Yesterday, it was the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette urging Hupfer's replacement to consider Hoosier environmentalists, not just profit. Today, it's the Evansville Courier & Press chiming in about Hupfer's oversight of exploratory strip-mining in the Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area in Southwestern Indiana:

"Results from the exploratory drilling are expected back soon and will guide DNR on how to proceed.

"We think the answer is clear, however. As we have said on this page before, a wildlife preserve is not the place to conduct strip mining.

"The noise, vibration, pollution and timber removal of mining even a small portion of Glendale would have an ugly, deleterious effect upon this natural jewel. Some reclamation efforts by mining companies have been impressive, but it takes decades for nature to return a mined area to its original condition.

"Hupfer is leaving DNR to go to ProLiance Energy, and we wish him the best. Daniels has named a new DNR director: Robert Carter Jr., a former two-term Clay County sheriff who currently heads DNR's law enforcement division.

"We congratulate Carter on his promotion. Carter's first order of business ought to be to toss the Glendale coal-exploration proposal in the round file and to declare as a matter of policy that strip mining will not be permitted there, based on overwhelming public sentiment against it. Local wishes ought to prevail."

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