|The Arizona Game and Fish Commission, on July 19, 2004, decided to allocate more hunt permits for bull elk and deer to satisfy a court ruling.
Earlier, U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield threw out Arizonas 10 percent cap on nonresident hunt permits, saying it violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The judge subsequently denied the states request for more time to comply with his order, essentially forcing Arizona to retool the hunt draw process.
Following the later ruling, the choice before the commission was to either throw out the results of this years drawing for all elk and deer and re-conduct the draw or to issue additional permit tags, many of them to nonresidents who may have been shut out of the first drawing.
The commission chose to allocate an additional 805 hunt permits.
We had to follow the judges order, says Deputy Director Steve Ferrell, and we determined that allocating more permits would harm the fewest amount of people without significantly affecting wildlife, either.
Those hunters already drawn for bull elk or drawn for antlered deer in Hunt Units 12A, 12B, 13A and 13B will receive permits as planned before the court ruling was issued.
In order to accommodate the judges order, an additional list of applicants will be assembled, consisting of hunters who had the lowest random numbers issued during the draw process. That list will then be sorted without using the nonresident cap, resulting in an additional 805 hunters who will receive a permit. Although most of the new permits will go to nonresidents, some Arizonans will benefit, too, because some will be for residents who applied to hunt with nonresident friends.
Given the constraints imposed by the judge, we think this system is the best choice to benefit all Arizona hunters, says Ferrell. If we had to conduct the entire draw again, many hunters would not receive their permits in time to adequately plan their trip, and that would affect a lot of people who make their living in hunting-related businesses. And in terms of the effect on wildlife, because only a small number of hunt units are affected, weve determined that a one-time increase in permits will not significantly affect wildlife resources.
The additional permits will affect a relatively small percentage of hunt units only 42 of the 165 elk hunt units, and 9 of 108 deer hunt units.
Most important, says Ferrell, is that every Arizona hunter who was already drawn this fall will receive a permit. Were not taking away any permits from residents.
The delay in the draw process will also cause a slight delay in permit mailings. Hunters selected in the original drawing can check to see whether theyve been awarded a permit by checking the department website, azgfd.com. Hunters who receive the additional tags will be notified no later than August 10 for hunts that begin in mid-September.
Those hunters who were successful in the original drawing should have received their permits in the mail by July 30, and those who receive one of the additional permits resident and nonresident will receive their permits by August 30.
Meantime, the department is poised to release the names of applicants who have been drawn for species not affected by the court ruling: buffalo, bighorn sheep, turkey and antelope. Hunters who put in for those species were able to learn their status after 5 p.m. on July 20.
More than 100 hunters attended the commission meeting. More than 270,000 people applied for big game permits for the fall hunt.
Before the close of the meeting, Game and Fish Director Duane Shroufe thanked his staff for working 12- to 16-hour days since this ruling came down. He also thanked the Game and Fish Commission for its decisiveness and hunters for their support of the department. Shroufe said this ruling would affect many other states besides Arizona.
The Game and Fish Commission will discuss long-term options to address the court ruling at a meeting to be held in Flagstaff on August 13-14.
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