By Jeff Wells
A bill is moving through the Indiana General Assembly to decriminalize the unlawful taking of our fish and wildlife resources. Senate Bill 52 would reduce the majority of fish and wildlife crimes to mere civil infractions. Our natural resources deserve better protection. Hoosiers of all backgrounds hold these resources in much higher esteem. Poachers are thieves who steal our property out of greed and financial gain. An act of theft warrants appropriate punishment.
Indiana conservation officers have risked their lives protecting Indiana's fish and wildlife. Officers routinely confront armed individuals in remote areas as a part of their law enforcement responsibilities. Most of these field contacts are positive and involve law-abiding citizens in lawful pursuit of fish and game. But, make no mistake, the inherent danger is real. Officers are passionate about their role in gaining compliance with our laws because they know Hoosiers expect nothing less.
Fish and wildlife management professionals have had minimal input into the changes addressed in this misguided legislation. The bill has passed the Senate and will be heard in House committee next week. SB 52 not only reduces the value of our wildlife, it is a slap in the face to the men and women who have devoted their lives to their protection. More importantly, it does not reflect the will of the people. Please urge your legislators to reconsider.