North Dakota lawmakers ended their session in April, considering during their 78 days of work just 25 bills regarding hunting, fishing and natural resources — fewest in more than a decade.
Non-resident waterfowlers made a little headway in gaining access to North Dakota's ducks and geese. But just a little.
Beginning this fall, non-residents will be allowed to hunt during the early goose season in Richland, Sargent, Benson, Ramsey and Towner counties without those days counting against their 14-day non-resident waterfowl license.
The bill passed the House 67-26 and the Senate 28-18.
The proposal wasn't so much a concession to non-residents as it was a recognition by North Dakota wildlife officials that their resident Canada goose population is growing, despite efforts to hold it in check. And North Dakota resident waterfowlers alone aren't likely to be able to kill enough geese to keep the population from rising.
Still, for those who hunt North Dakota, and who have taken advantage in recent years of its early goose season, this is a pretty big deal. It means they can make an additional trip to North Dakota to hunt ducks and geese.
The offering is essentially an experiment, good only through July 13, 2013, and wildlife officials will track the number of resident and non-resident goose hunters who participate, and the number of geese killed per county.
Not passing the North Dakota Legislature, unfortunately, was a bill that would have provided a season-long non-resident combination small game and waterfowl license.
Season-long, that is, except for the first week, which is reserved for North Dakota residents.
Granted, the license would have cost $500. But it would have given non-resident landowners in North Dakota an opportunity to utilize their property more fully. The bill failed in the Senate 17-29, and wasn't voted on in the House.
Also failing was a bill that would have established a non-resident waterfowl license valid for three four-day periods. Currently, only non-resident licenses good for 14 consecutive days or two seven-day periods are available in North Dakota. That bill failed in the Senate 21-25.
Finally, as testament to just how disinterested North Dakota is in encouraging non-resident waterfowlers to visit their state, a bill that would have allowed non-residents age 55 and older to buy a senior citizen, statewide, season-long small game and waterfowl license also failed.