BOISE — A bill that exempts private property owners from having to obtain an outfitters and guides license to conduct hay rides, pumpkin festivals or other activities for pay on their land has passed the Idaho Legislature.
State law requires anyone who conducts those and several other outdoor activities for compensation to obtain a license from the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board.
House Bill 597, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, exempts private landowners from that requirement, though it would allow them to obtain a license if they choose.
The bill was authored and championed by Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.
“The bill is simply to remove the requirement for landowners to pay $450 every year and receive a license … so they can allow some recreational activities on their land and maybe charge a buck or two for it,” said IFBF Director of Governmental Affairs Russ Hendricks.
Hendricks said the bill is about protecting private property rights and would also protect farmers and ranchers who want to engage in agritourism activities on their land.
“If I have private property, why do I have to go beg permission from some unelected bureaucrat to do what I want on my own property?” he said.
The bill ran into opposition during a public hearing late in the session when some members of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee were concerned the change will allow private landowners to guide hunters to game animals without a license.
If someone wants to charge for hay rides, corn mazes or other activities on their land, the state doesn’t have an interest, said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert.
“But if you’re taking a public asset, you should have (to have a license),” he added. “I’m a staunch supporter of private property rights but I feel this bill goes beyond its intended scope and purpose.”
Supporters of the bill pointed out private landowners who are not licensed still have to comply with all other state regulations and rules, including those governing fish and game.
“The consumption of the state’s wildlife is controlled by fish and game regulations,” said farmer Jim Lowe, who spoke in support of the bill on behalf of Food Producers of Idaho.
The question “of consumptive or non-consumptive use should not weigh in on this debate, from my perspective,” said Lowe, who owns and runs one of the state’s largest corn mazes and pumpkin festivals.
The bill was opposed by the licensing board as well as several sportsmen who testified on their own behalf.
The committee voted 6-3 in favor of the bill.
“We either believe in private property rights or we don’t,” Sen. Monty Pearce, a Republican rancher from New Plymouth, said shortly before the vote was taken.