AP NEWS

Regulatory fees could drop for Idaho elk hunting ranches

February 11, 2020 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The director of the Idaho Department of Agriculture will have authority to set regulatory fees paid by elk hunting ranches under legislation sent to the Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee approved the bill backed by elk hunting ranches.

Elk at fenced hunting ranches are managed similarly to livestock by the Agriculture Department. Hunters pay to hunt trophy elk, with hunts typically costing thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the elk’s antlers.

There are 19 domestic elk hunting ranches listed on the Idaho Elk Breeders Association’s website.

Former Republican Sen. Jeff Siddoway, speaking for the association, told the committee that the industry for many years cost the state more to regulate than it paid in.

He said the problem started with an elk escape in eastern Idaho in 2006 that created a deficit that eventually grew to about $170,000. The group was told the Agriculture Department wouldn’t draw from other accounts to pay to regulate the domestic elk hunting program.

The industry agreed to bump up fees in 2014 while also removing some regulations. Now there’s a $15,000 surplus that’s expected to reach $50,000 this summer.

The Agriculture Department wants a $50,000 to $100,000 surplus in case of another escape or a disease outbreak. The director of the agency would be able to reduce fees once that surplus is attained.