TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Hunters may be required to have licenses when tracking any game on public lands in Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering a proposal to go before state lawmakers next year that would require hunters to have licenses for each species of wildlife they intend to pursue on public lands.
Fish and Wildlife Executive Director Nick Wiley said Thursday during a meeting in Pensacola that the proposal was initially considered for hunting hogs, the second most hunted species in Florida after white-tail deer, but expanded in part for general safety concerns of people using public lands.
Currently, a license is not required to hunt hogs and most wildlife on public lands.
A question remains how the proposal will be accepted politically, which is why Wiley said the details "still need to be fleshed out."
"It doesn't seem like you'd have a problem if it was tied to safety," said Commissioner Ronald Bergeron. "People can be on public land hunting without a safety course, whether for hogs or pythons."
Lane Stephens, executive director of the Allied Sportsmen's Associations of Florida, said the proposal may be more acceptable for lawmakers and hunters than an effort a year ago when the discussion was to change the designation of hogs, which could have made it more difficult to hunt hogs.
"My organization, I think, we would fully support (the current proposal), you should have a hunting license if you're out with the public," Stephens said.
The Fish and Wildlife proposal would require the hunting licenses to be acquired on a species-by-species basis.
The fiscal impact is anticipated to be small. Fish and Wildlife officials believe most people who hunt now on public lands already have licenses to hunt other game or believe that licenses are already required.
Looking ahead to the 2014 legislative session, the commission may also ask lawmakers to allow those who violate certain boating laws --- including boating under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless boating --- to take the mandatory safety course online.
Another proposal from the commission would allow counties to use their portions of vessel registration fees for the removal of debris that inhibits navigation and for the construction of boat piers, docks and mooring buoys. Currently, the money is limited to the removal of derelict vessels and to provide uniform waterway markers, public boat ramps, and other public launching facilities.
On Thursday, the commission approved a new recreational hunting and fishing license exemption for active and disabled veterans and their immediate family members. Also, it prohibited, starting Nov. 1, the use of gear that has a weight attached to a hook when fishing in Boca Grande Pass in an effort to reduce tarpon being snagged.
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