The farmers and hunters should be friends

Published 3:05 pm Thursday, December 24, 2009

To the Editor:

Regarding written permission for hunting, trapping and fishing (again), and Mr. John Blantons TDB letter of Dec. 11. Certainly Mr. Blanton can and should express his opinion. However, his letter contained a few inaccuracies and raises a few questions:

To start with lets clarify why several Polk County citizens started the process to request that the Commissioners adopt an ordinance requiring written permission to hunt, trap or fish on the land of another.

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While the focus has been on hunting, many landowners are equally concerned about people trespassing on their ponds or lakes. Its really not just about problems with hunting, fishing and trespassing. Its definitely not about the 2nd Amendment. It is about Respect, Responsibility and Safety and there is a county wide problem.

Mr. Blanton states in his letter that he does not speak for the Wildlife Commission and at the first meeting expressed his opinion to the commissioners. Actually, prior to the first meeting on Oct. 5, Mr. Blanton lobbied certain commissioners presenting himself as the Wildlife Commissions spokesperson.

At the meeting, after identifying himself as a retired Wildlife Commission officer, Mr. Blanton said, The N.C. Wildlife Commission does not support any type of written permission law because it further restricts hunting. Blanton explained that every time a new local law is enacted, there are fewer hunters, which means less revenue for the wildlife commission, which is supported solely by hunting and fishing licensing. These lobbied commissioners repeatedly called on Mr. Blanton for his advice. It is relative to note that Mr. Blanton leases land for hunting and gets paid to hunt certain Polk County properties.

Rather than express his opinion, Mr. Blanton misled the commissioners and the public by presenting himself as an expert witness and spokesperson for the N.C. Wildlife Commission. Subsequent to the Oct. 5 meeting, Mr. Gordon Myers, Executive Director of the N.C. Wildlife Commission, refuted Mr. Blantons statements.

In his letter of Nov. 5, 2009, Mr. Myers said: The Wildlife Resources Commission does not have an agency position regarding written permission laws nor does the commission have the authority to promulgate rules associated with trespass on private lands. One of the tenets of sportsmanship that the Wildlife Resources Commission emphasizes in hunter education classes is ethical and responsible behavior of hunters. We do our best to remind hunters of their responsibilities to always obtain permission to hunt lands that they do not own. Mr. Blanton is not a spokesperson for the agency and I believe I have clarified that we do not have an agency position.

The petitioners who sought written permission did so to try to address problems they have encountered. They presented their case with respect. They listened to concerns addressed at the first meeting and added language to the draft to try to address those concerns. There was certainly no intent to leave out any group including rabbit hunters and coon hunters. These hunting groups could have added language to address their concerns.

Mr. Blantons suggestion that the petitioners were snobbish is untrue and divisive. The solution of four commissioners and Mr. Blanton for landowners to register their land with the Wildlife Commission is also divisive. This is a very elitist form of Written Permission. Besides all the hoops a landowner must jump through to register their land, they must also turn in a list of those allowed to hunt and then issue them a written permission. If a hunter is not on the list, they cant hunt there.

Mr. Blanton continually refers to a goose hunting incident. Mr. Blanton does not know all the facts regarding the goose hunt and it was not the reason the written permission ordinance was requested. However, had a written permission ordinance been in place, there would not have been an incident. As is often the case, research can reveal helpful information.

In the course of intensive research on the NC Wildlife Commission regulations, we became aware of state law:

G.S. 14-159.6. Trespass for purposes of hunting, etc., without written consent a misdemeanor.

(a) Any person who willfully goes on the land, waters, ponds, or a legally established waterfowl blind of another upon which notices, signs or posters prohibiting hunting, fishing or trapping have been placed in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 14-159.7, or upon which posted notices have been placed in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 14-159.7, to hunt, fish or trap without the written consent of the owner or his agent shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Provided, further, that no arrests under authority of this subsection shall be made without the consent of the owner or owners of said land, or their duly authorized agents in the following counties: Halifax and Warren. (b) Any person who willfully goes on the land of another upon which notices, signs, or posters prohibiting raking or removing pine needles or pine straw have been placed in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 14-159.7, or upon which posted notices have been placed in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 14-159.7, to rake or remove pine needles or pine straw without the written consent of the owner or his agent shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. (1949, c. 887, s. 1; 1953, c. 1226; 1965, c. 1134; 1975, c. 280, s. 1; 1979, c. 830, s. 11; 1991, c. 435, s. 4; 1993, c. 539, s. 99; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1997-443, s. 19.25(z).)

So, a few additional thoughts on the goose hunting incident: While the hunters said they had verbal permission from the landowners agent (maybe three or four times removed), the landowner did not give them permission. The hunters did not have written permission. They also clearly trespassed on an adjoining landowners property. Both properties were posted. Therefore, the hunters were in violation of the above law, a Class 2 Misdemeanor which can result in a prison sentence of 30 to 180 days.

In summary, since four of our commissioners were unwilling to help the landowners who are having problems, landowners need to post their land and insist that law enforcement and our judicial system enforce G.S. 14-159.6.

And finally, questions for Mr. Blanton: Why did you misrepresent yourself? Why have you chosen to make this a divisive issue when we could all have tried to work it out together? After all, we are all neighbors and at the end of the day, we all need to be considerate of one another.

Brenda Brock