Bear sanctuary hunting rule now up to legislators
A new rule allowing bear hunting in three Western North Carolina sanctuary areas currently off-limits to the practice might not take effect following an April 21 vote from the N.C. Rules Review Commission.
The Rules Review Commission received a barrage of letters requesting legislative review of the rule, with the packet collating those letters totaling 439 pages. State law requires legislative review for rules that receive 10 or more letters requesting it.
Rules sent for legislative review have delayed implementation dates and might end up not being enacted at all. According to state statute, the clock will start ticking when the N.C. General Assembly convenes for its short session on May 4. Legislators will have 31 days to file a bill specifically disproving the rule. If such a bill is filed in that timeframe, then the rule cannot become effective until either an “unfavorable final action” is taken or the General Assembly adjourns without ratifying it.
If a bill disapproving the rule is passed an enacted, then the rule cannot go into effect.
The N.C. Wildlife Commission approved the bear sanctuary hunting rule during a unanimous vote Feb. 24. Under the rule, the state’s 22 designated bear sanctuaries would be renamed “designated bear management units” and permit hunts would be allowed in three of them — Panthertown, Pisgah and Standing Indian. Permit hunts are already allowed in the Mount Mitchell and Daniel Boone sanctuaries.
The Wildlife Commission said the rule was necessary to slow the growth rate of the mountain bear population and cut down on negative interactions between bears and backcountry users. However, the public overwhelmingly disapproved of the proposal, with 2,744 people weighing in during the public comment portion of the rule-making process — a level of participation that dwarfed the 379 people who commented on the second most-discussed proposal. Eighty-six percent opposed the rule.
The bear sanctuary rule was one of 29 changes proposed in this year’s rule-making process. The Wildlife Commission approved all of them, but the bear sanctuary regulation was the only one denied by the Rules Review Commission.