ANTELOPE ISLAND -- The Utah State Parks and Recreation Board has adopted a rule allowing it to annually set the dates and the harvest limits for the Antelope Island mule deer and bighorn sheep hunts.
By a 6-to-2 vote the board adopted the rule at its quarterly meeting, held Wednesday at the Iron County Visitor's Center in Cedar City. Board members Marty Ott and Kim Schappert voted against adopting the rule. Schappert requested more public input be provided to the board prior to its adoption.
Board member Tom Guinney was not in attendance.
"The rule allows board members to set (Antelope Island) hunt limits and dates annually, based on public input and recommendations from the island wildlife biologist," said Deena Loyola, State Parks and Recreation communications coordinator.
The rule gives the board control over the island hunts beginning in 2013 by allowing it -- on an "ongoing" basis and with no set limit of years -- to determine each year the date and the harvest numbers for the hunt, Loyola said.
The harvest numbers do include a range beginning at "zero," which could result in no hunt being held in a particular year, she said.
By extending the hunt with no specific extension in mind, versus having the Legislature approve it on a year-to-year basis, the board seeks to implement some of its own rules, including an annual review of the hunt by the public, wildlife biologists and Davis County officials.
"Overall, the board likes the idea of being able to hear from the public, hear from the biologist and have more voice in the decision-making process," Loyola said in an earlier story.
The new rule picks up where House Bill 3, approved by the Utah Legislature in 2010, ends.
That piece of legislation kicked off the hunt by directing the Division of State Parks and Recreation to host in fall 2011 a one-time hunt for mule deer and bighorn sheep at Antelope Island State Park.
The Legislature, through a set of bills during its 2011 and 2012 sessions, then added an additional hunt for fall 2012.
In response to the new rule, Antelope Island State Park manager Jeremy Shaw said: "The board sets the policy and guidelines for managing the state parks. It's my job to manage the island within the parameters they have set out to the best of my ability."
But one individual representing many who did attend Wednesday's board meeting to speak against the new rule was Davis Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau President and CEO Barbara Riddle.
The Davis Area CVB, which markets the state park for in-state and out-of-state visitors, publicly opposes the island hunts, Riddle said prior to the meeting.
Riddle was the only member of the public to speak at the meeting on the issue.
Mike Styler, executive director with the Department of Natural Resources, also spoke at the meeting and provided the board with a brief history of the island hunt issue.
Friends of Antelope Island, a nonprofit group that through activities and donations raises funds to enhance the island park, is also opposed to the hunts, Riddle said in representing that group.
The Davis County Commission has not taken an official position on the state's desire to oversee the hunts.
But County Commissioner Louenda Downs has personally been vocal in opposing hunts on the island.
The decision of whether to have hunts on the island should be put into the hands of the public and, if need be, through a vote, Downs said.
"The public is not in favor of the hunt. They want (the island) to be a pristine tourist (attraction)," she said before the board's Wednesday action.
With each hunt held, the trophy wildlife that may draw people to the island is removed from it, Downs said.
"We don't want to sell something that cannot be replaced," she said.
If island hunts are to continue, Downs said, the oversight of them would be best served with state parks.
Currently, the hunt makes available two permits for both the mule deer and bighorn sheep, with one permit for each species auctioned off to the highest bidder, the other permits obtained through a public draw.
The permits for the fall 2011 hunts generated $283,671 in revenue for state parks, a portion of that going to improve island habitat.
The same permits for fall 2012 generated $215,000 in revenue, Loyola said.