SALT LAKE CITY -- A group of Davis County Chamber of Commerce members and others lobbied local lawmakers Monday to halt a plan to extend the availability of limited hunting on Antelope Island.
Wearing reddish-orange vests and stickers inside the Capitol building, the group asked an assembly of Top of Utah legislators to derail a tentative budget line item directing a state agency to set up the hunt of bighorn sheep and deer.
"We must stop this plan," said Barbara Riddle, president of the Davis Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President.
But after several failed attempts over the last decade to allow an extended sportsman's hunt for big game, supporters argue the plan has more traction than ever before.
Among the supporters of the proposal is Michael Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.
He calls it an "experiment" that would last at least one year.
"All divisions of Natural Resources are working hard to cut costs while maximizing recreation opportunities. I believe this experiment can be successful and provide some unique experiences," Styler wrote in response to a question from the Standard-Examiner.
A limited, controlled hunt of bison on 28,000-acre Antelope Island is already allowed.
Styler notes the deer herd has around 90 mature bucks. Last spring, at least six mature bucks walked off the island during low-water times into the Syracuse area, and at least two were hit by cars.
The DNR director envisions allowing state parks to sell one deer permit and one Bighorn permit somewhat similar to a landowner tag, with the proceeds being reinvested into habitat on the island.
He also envisions putting one deer permit and one Bighorn permit into the public draw a year from now.
Some estimates are the permits would bring in several hundred thousand dollars.
"The proposed hunting flies in the face of the educated, well thought-out management plan of state parks," countered Riddle.
Yet Styler is joined by the sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Michael Noel, R-Kanab, and Don Peay, leader of the group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.
"You can have a little hunting and still have watchable wildlife," said Peay, who lives in Bountiful and calls the island a "treasure."
The latest iteration of the hunt has drawn recurring fire for the last year.
In a letter to the DNR last summer, Don Leonard, the president of Friends of Antelope Island, expressed concern about more hunting.
"It is the unanimous opinion of the Friends of Antelope Island Board that hunting in this special and uniquely situated state park would be a mistake and disservice to the citizens of Utah and the visitors from around the world who come to the park," wrote Leonard.
Top of Utah lawmakers who are helping with the final negotiations to assemble the next two-year state budget say the hunting proposal has as much chance as any to be part of the final package, especially if Styler, a member of the governor's cabinet, will not stand in its way.
Lawmakers have less than two weeks to finish the budget.