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Fish & Wildlife Proposed Rule Changes

The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has given preliminary adoption to the following rule changes governing fishing tournament licenses/permits, trapping wild animals, and registering to be an organ donor through the DNR’s license system.

The virtual public hearing has been scheduled as follows: Thursday, January 20, 2022 at 7 p.m. ET. The deadline for public comments is January 21, 2022.

Individuals may join the public hearing in two ways:

To join by phone using only audio, please dial 1-240-454-0887. When prompted, enter access code 23034329797##.

To join using video, please use the following website address, meeting number, and password:
https://indiana.webex.com/indiana/j.php?MTID=m4d8c87a1e19a26bd69e8b3e90e563097

Meeting number (access code): 2303 432 9797. Meeting password: 5RPf753W4Zp.

Public comments can be submitted to the NRC no later than January  21, 2022 by going to: https://www.in.gov/nrc/rules/rulemaking-docket. Click on “Comment on this Rule” next to the “Fish & Wildlife and Law Enforcement Miscellaneous Rule Amendments.”

Comments on the proposed changes can also be mailed to:

Natural Resources Commission
Indiana Government Center North
100 North Senate Avenue, Room N103
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2200

The NRC is expected to vote on final adoption of any rule changes at their meeting in March of 2022.

The proposed changes are summarized as follows:

Fishing tournament licensing (312 IAC 5-3.5-1)

The proposed amendment removes the reference to the Division of Law Enforcement for the administration of licenses for fishing tournaments since the Division of State Parks issues fishing tournament permits/licenses for state park & reservoir properties, and the Division of Fish & Wildlife issues permits for the three public freshwater lakes listed in the rule (Syracuse, Wawasee, and Sylvan). There are no changes to the lakes or requirements for the permits.

Trapping wild animals (312 IAC 9-3-18) & Nuisance wild animal control permit (312 IAC 9-10-11)

The change in these rules is to simply remove the requirement that body-gripping traps be completely covered by water. Only enough water to cover the opening of the trap by 50% will be required. The 330 Conibear™ (body-gripping trap) is used primarily for beaver and otter trapping in Indiana. This type of trap is one of the most effective methods for removing beavers from an area, and it is listed as a humane and effective trap in the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Best Management Practices for trapping beavers and otters. Beavers can create a dam in a waterway, causing flooding to adjacent properties, and beavers may need to be removed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, this method is one of the most common used for nuisance trapping situations as well as during the beaver trapping season. Because of the size of this trap, the administrative rule in 312 IAC 9-3-18(f) currently requires that the 330 Conibear™ trap be completely submerged in water. The same requirements are in the nuisance wild animal control permit rule in 312 IAC 9-10-11 for nuisance wildlife control operators. A 330 Conibear™ typically measures 10” x 10”. Due to the size of the trap and how it is typically set, it would be difficult for a dog to be caught in a 330 that is halfway submerged, so moving from fully submerged to halfway submerged should not change pet safety considerations. Allowing these traps to not be completely submerged would allow for more flexibility in dealing with beaver conflicts. The beaver and river otter seasons run concurrently, so this change should also not substantially increase river otter harvest incidental take. Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania require this size of body-gripping trap to be fully submerged; however, Wisconsin, Michigan and Kentucky allow this size of body-grip trap to only be half-submerged in water.

Organ Donation (312 IAC 9-10-28)

This new rule is required by law in IC 14-22-11-20 to specify that a person may become an organ donor at the time of purchase of a fishing, hunting, or trapping license online and have that designation on the license. Senate Enrolled Act 288 passed in 2020, requiring the DNR to provide this option for customers to register as an organ donor when purchasing a license. This rule specifies that only residents of Indiana who purchase a license through our online license system (not at a retailer) can register to become an organ donor, and the person must be at least 18 years old. It also provides an option for a person to remove their status as an organ donor in our license system by submission of a signed affidavit.

Proposed DNR Property Rule Changes

The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has given preliminary adoption to the rule changes listed below that govern activities on Indiana DNR properties.

The public comment period is now closed. The NRC Hearing Officer Report that includes all the public comments, a response from the Indiana DNR, and the proposed rule language will be available in January of 2022. The NRC is expected to vote on the proposed changes at their meeting on January 18, 2022; for more information, go to: https://www.in.gov/nrc/meetings-and-minutes/

The proposed property rule changes are summarized as follows:

Firearms, Hunting, and Trapping on DNR Properties (312 IAC 8-2-3)

This change allows a tree stand or hunting blind to be left on a DNR property, provided that the stand or hunting blind left overnight is marked with the name, address and telephone number of the owner of the stand or the owner’s customer identification number issued by the department. It also clarifies that existing administrative rules applicable to tree stands or hunting blinds used for deer or migratory birds and waterfowl are applicable to the use of those stands and blinds on DNR properties. The requirement for owners to identify stands and hunting blinds allows DNR property staff and Indiana conservation officers to better regulate properties and address conflicts with or between hunters, or properly handle a blind left after the hunting season.

Additional authorizations proposed in the rule would allow a person to place a trail or game camera on DNR properties designated in the rule if the owner is identified on the camera. Dedicated nature preserves and state parks, for example, will not allow trail or game cameras placed on their properties in order to prevent harm to vegetation where the camera is placed and to help keep visitors from going off trails to set up a camera. The camera’s owner needs to be identified in the event that property staff need to remove a camera due to property work, such as a prescribed burn.

Additional language prohibits any person from placing bait for wild birds or deer on a DNR property except for the exemptions listed in the rule, such as bait or food placed for management by an authorized department employee, agricultural operations (such as crops planted and harvested on a DNR property), and bird feeders placed by department employees. This provision is intended to prevent hunters from being unknowingly placed in an illegal situation of hunting in an area where bait was placed by another person. It is illegal to hunt deer and wild turkeys with the use of bait pursuant to 312 IAC 9-3-2(u) for deer and 312 IAC 9-4-11(g) for wild turkeys. Furthermore, it is illegal to hunt migratory birds using bait pursuant to federal regulations in 50 CFR 20.21. This amendment is necessary to ensure that each member of the public is able to fully utilize DNR properties for recreational purposes. The definition of bait is included in this rule to be consistent with the definition of bait in 312 IAC 9-3-3(u) and federal regulations governing baiting for migratory birds.

Preservation of habitat and natural and cultural resources (312 IAC 8-2-10)

One rule change will allow shed deer antlers to be picked up by members of the public without the need for a permit to clarify the current practice, which does not require a permit or license.

An additional change in this rule will require a license from a department representative to use a magnet or magnetized equipment to remove any item from public waters on a DNR property. “Magnet fishing” has become popular in the last few years and involves the use of a magnet to retrieve metal in waterways and lakes; however, some magnet use has resulted in the removal of firearms and other dangerous items. This rule limits the items that can be removed to only those that are able to be carried and retrieved by hand without the assistance of motorized equipment. Requiring the license also ensures that DNR property staff are aware of the activity, which will allow the DNR to require dangerous items to be turned into the property office, and trash to be properly disposed of.

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