Gov. Norm Bangerter says he suggested that state wildlife officials reconsider a controversial sandhill crane hunt but denies he is personally responsible for its postponement.
The Division of Wildlife Resources had intended to issue 100 permits to 50 applicants for a mid-September sandhill crane hunt in Cache and Rich counties, but after a public outcry the Utah Wildlife Board voted last week to postpone the hunt.Conservationists argued the hunt would not only have harmed the sandhill crane population, but also jeopardized endangered whooping cranes, a close cousin of the sandhill.
Some Cache Valley hunters and farmers, like Daryl Kunzler of Benson, have placed the blame for the cancellation on the governor.
"I've seen 60 or more sandhill cranes on my 40-acre grain field, and last year they damaged my crops by more than $4,000," Kunzler said.
But during a campaign appearance Saturday at the Cache County Fair, Bangerter said that all he'd done was "suggest to key Division of Wildlife Resource people that because of the controversy, maybe they should reconsider or have a better public hearing process.
"When all the furor started, division officials came to me and asked for my opinion," Bangerter said. "I told them I felt the issue came up without a lot of public notice, and I don't think it's a good idea to do things that way.
Bangerter said that since the permits are controlled by the federal government, they probably would be issued in other states and the total loss of the sandhill crane population would be the same as if Utah had held a hunt.