States discourage, bar non-resident hunting and fishing

Anglers from around the region enjoy fishing on the Lower Owyhee River. The fishery along with all other waters in the state is now limited to residents only. The same goes for hunting.

ONTARIO, Ore. — Hunting or fishing? Stay in your own state if you are.

As of 11:59 p.m. Friday, Oregon joined Idaho in temporarily closing those types of recreational activities to non-residents. The action is being taken by agencies that manage fish and wildlife in spirit of stay-home orders by their respective governors due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a news release on Thursday from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon is closing recreational hunting, fishing, crabbing and clamming to non-residents. This is over concerns that traveling to participate in the outdoor activities could spread the virus.

Idaho Fish and Game adopted a similar rule on April 4, temporarily suspending several types of nonresident fishing and hunting licenses, tags and permits in response to Gov. Brad Little’s executive order.

In Idaho, however, those purchased before the suspension are still valid for existing seasons, including controlled elk and deer hunts in the fall. Idaho just asks that nonresidents follow social distancing directives and check before going to see if a site is closed.

In Oregon, Fish and Wildlife officials cite concerns over residents hunting and fishing, too.

“While seasons remain open in Oregon, except for Columbia River salmon/steelhead fishing, resident hunters and anglers should not be traveling to participate,” states the release. “ODFW is hearing concerns from rural communities about people visiting to hunt and fish and placing additional burdens on these communities’ limited resources.”

Rural communities have cited concerns over strains on medical and emergency services and search-and-rescue operations, according to ODFW.

“Some have asked us to close seasons to reduce travel,” said ODFW Director Curt Melcher in the release. “We would like to keep seasons open to give locals an outlet during this difficult time, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to travel to these communities. Stick close to home and fish at your local lake, pond or river and do not go crabbing or clamming unless you live on the coast, and then only to places where access is still open.”

As a destination area for hunting and fishing for residents and non-residents alike, many businesses throughout Malheur County directly benefit from those activities.

Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe said earlier in the week that, Owyhee Road which leads to a popular fishery that draws people from Idaho and other states throughout the year, was still open, although the state parks at Owyhee Lake and Succor Creek were now closed.

Mentioning that Washington state had recently closed hunting and fishing altogether, Wolfe said he had heard that some rural businesses were petitioning Gov. Kate Brown to close hunting and fishing completely in Oregon, too, “in an effort to avoid an influx of people into rural communities.”

“I would sure hate to see that happen,” Wolfe said. “I’m real nervous about how long they are going to carry this [stay at home] order on and how many businesses are going to go bankrupt because of it.”

ODFW states that while numbers have declined in most activities, including shed hunting and wildlife viewing, “the majority of participants are doing it close to home and practicing social distancing.

The agency anticipates opportunities will open again for non-residents who have purchased licenses to participate in hunting and fishing later in the year, and will refund residents who have purchased spring tags.

Across the nation, states are clamping down on stay at home orders, with some extreme measures being taken in Utah on Wednesday. In its capital, Salt Lake City, the municipality has created an online compliance form for residents to report individuals who they don’t believe are complying with the city’s order. They can even send photos or video with the complaint form, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune. Non-essential businesses found operating within seven counties, including Salt Lake County, could be charged with six months of jail time and a $1,000 fine, according to the article.

In addition, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Wednesday ordered any adult traveling through Salt Lake City International Airport or driving into the state to sing a travel declaration, which includes questions about COVID exposure and symptoms, as well as listing wherever else they’ve traveled. 

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