The board of trustees of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation gave its approval last week, six votes for and two in opposition.
Four permits will be issued, two each for bighorn sheep and mule deer. Two permits, one for each species, will be available via a public draw process, while the other two permits, again one for each species, will be available through competitive bid, it was decided.
Public draw permit holders will hunt Nov. 19-Nov. 24, 2011, while competitive bid permit holders will hunt Nov. 15-24 of next year.
The hunt will be limited to a confined area on the south 26,000 acres, which covers most of the park.
“While we applaud efforts to balance our state’s budget, we do not feel the relatively limited amount of revenue from a hunt justifies the loss of the animals,” says Davis Chamber of Commerce President Jim Smith.
“The short-term benefits of a one-time revenue stream are offset by the diminishing loss of one of the island’s principal attractions – beautiful wildlife that is accessible in a pristine environment near a population center,” he said.
“As a businessman I see danger signs when any business resorts to selling long-term assets to fund current operating needs,” said Smith, who was a banker for about 35 years.
“It is imprudent to jeopardize long-term health and viability to meet a short-term cash shortfall. The same analogy might be appropriately applied to the island hunt,” he said.
“We’re just a little fearful that to begin hunting on the island might lead to more hunting there,” said County Commission Chair John Petroff.
“We’ve spent a lot of tourism and tax dollars to advertise Davis County. Almost every one of our ads has to do with the island. It’s beautiful, it’s tranquil. It has a special feeling you really don’t find anywhere else.”
Of hunting, he said further: “I’m afraid it could affect the island. That’s more what we’re concerned about. I don’t think the herds will sustain hunting every year.”
Trying to look at the other side of the issue, Petroff added, “There are some beautiful bucks and sheep so I can understand why hunters would like to get a trophy.”
“While a hunt on the island is not the ‘end of the world,’, it may be the beginning of the end of a little piece (or peace) of our world,” said County Commissioner Louenda Downs.
“It is unfortunate a few in the Legislature have forced the State Parks Board into a position where they are again addressing a hunt on Antelope Island when public opinion time and time again has voiced strong opposition,” said Davis Area Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Barbara Riddle.
“This hunting issue did not get a ‘fair’ chance with public comment in the legislative session this year,” she said.
“If this is truly about the revenue, please consider other options before auctioning off our viewable wildlife resources for a short-term gain,” Riddle continued.
She suggested supporting tourism growth resulting in more park attendees “by keeping the natural resources in place. Hunting would take our biggest and our best leaving just an average herd that one could view from any roadside.
“Sell a few more permits for hunting in the Paunsaugunt Plateau where their mule deer make those on Antelope Island look small,” she said.
Charge schools for field trips to the island, Riddle suggested. In 2009, the island hosted 215 buses with 9,441 students who came to learn about history. Even a $2 to $3 per child fee might be assessed to generate revenue, among other proposals.