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Judge finds for North Dakota in legal spat over hunting
Dale Wetzel, Associated Press
June 10, 2005 HUNT0610

BISMARCK, N.D. -- A federal judge has thrown out a Minnesota legal challenge to North Dakota's hunting regulations, saying the state may restrict out-of-state hunters without violating constitutional protections for doing business between states.

"Recreational hunting is not a fundamental right, and states have a legitimate interest in regulating the taking of wildlife and fish within [their] boundaries," U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote in his ruling Wednesday. "This necessarily includes laws or regulations that differentiate between residents and nonresidents."

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem praised the decision.

"States have the right to regulate, and treat differently, in-state and out-of-state residents for hunting purposes," Stenehjem said.

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said the ruling showed "we're committed to managing our resources in the right way."

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, who filed the legal challenge to North Dakota's hunting rules in March 2004, said he had not decided whether to appeal.

In his suit, Hatch contended the hunting rules were comparable to the regulation of any interstate business.

Recent North Dakota regulations that limit hunting by visitors -- and make them pay higher fees than residents -- violate the U.S. Constitution's protections for doing business between states, Hatch said.

Among the rules to which Hatch objected was a ban on out-of-state duck hunters during the first week of North Dakota's duck season.

And even though he ruled in favor of North Dakota, the judge wrote: "North Dakota residents should not be surprised to see their access to recreational hunting and fishing opportunities diminish in other states, particularly in Minnesota."

Hatch said he hoped Minnesota legislators would not respond by approving similar limits on North Dakotans.
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