Commission passes resolution opposing hog hunting ban in National Forest

The Iron County Board of Commissioners has passed a resolution in opposition to a proposed ban on feral hog hunting in the Mark Twain National Forest.  It has also sought and received the support of a regional county commission organization.

“The resolution states that the County Commissioners are opposed to closing the Mark Twain National Forest to hog hunters and there are multiple reasons for that,” said Iron County Presiding Commissioner Jim Scaggs. “Landowners continue to tell me that their farms are being destroyed by feral hogs and it appears that landowners whose land borders National Forest land have more to deal with than those whose land does not.”

The National Forest Service is seeking public input about the proposal. The public comment period ends on July 23.

“When you look at the 2 million acres that the Mark Twain National Forest encompasses - its footprint here in Missouri, that’s at least several million (privately owned) acres that border it. I’m not opposed to anything that other agencies are doing; it is all tools in the toolbox. And I don’t think farmers and hunters are the problem. I think they could help us solve the problem if we could just get to the table and stop butting heads and fighting each other. It is not just a problem in Iron County, but also in the 28 other counties in Southern Missouri that feral hogs are affecting.”

Scaggs said the commissioners want “a place at the table.” They want county commissioners involved in the discussions with the National Forest Service, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Missouri Department of Conservation on what to do about the invasive species that are feral hogs.

“I”m not opposed to what federal state agencies are saying,” the commissioner stated.  “I think trapping is an important tool and is effective.  I’ve done trapping on my farm.  You don’t always trap sows and boars and sometimes you have to bring in the dogs to catch them. I’ve used both techniques.  I’ve brought people in on my property to night hunt, because I don’t have enough hours in the day to hunt these hogs.

“I’ve heard stories about how farmers are releasing these hogs and that is just not true. I don’t know of a farmer anywhere in southeast Missouri who wants a feral hog on his farm. So maybe we have a serious miscommunication, but I thought it was important for the County Commission to state its position.”

“The Southeast Missouri Regional County Commissioners Association unanimously endorsed the resolution and other area County Commissions are expected to adopt it officially. Those actions will be submitted in the National Forest Services public comment period.

“I know some people will disagree with that position, and I understand that, but 

if we don’t eradicate these invasive feral hogs we are going to have a real serious problem that is going to hit us on the economic front pretty quick,” Scaggs said. “We’ve lost a good percentage of our hayfields and of our pasture ground, which means we have to cut back on the number of cattle we can raise and that translates to the loss of profit on our farm.  I don’t know of a farmer in Iron County who can afford to lose a dime.”

The presiding commissioner said the part of the proposal that really got his attention and led him to propose the resolution to his fellow commissioners was the penalties involved in the change.

“I’ve been hunting on my farm for four years,” he explained. Feral hogs are very smart and they have excellent sense of smell.  They don’t see very well, but they can pick up human scent around a trap in a heartbeat.  We have had pretty good luck catching the juveniles in traps, but not very much success trapping the adult hogs.  We will bring in dogs to catch the boar or sow the next day and we’ve had great success.

“(Under this proposal) if I am a landowner and I live next to the national forest and the hogs are destroying my land and I see a hog and I pursue it onto national forest land and I get caught, I could be penalized up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months. And that is a federal charge.

“I would hope that we wouldn’t treat bonifide citizen farmers and hunters as criminals because we are trying to kill wild hogs.’

The text of the resolution passed by the commission is as follows:

WHEREAS, County Commissioners are tasked with the responsibility of serving the best interests of County Residents, and managing all aspects of county business not assigned by law to other elected officials.

WHEREAS, County Commissioners are elected by County Residents to serve as a liaison for the county between other local units of government, regional bodies, state and federal agencies.

WHEREAS, as a rule, Commissioners in rural Counties uniquely deal with private landowner, farm and ranch, hunting and trapping, wildlife, livestock and other similar agricultural interests and issues on a larger percentage per capita than urban Commissioners.

WHEREAS, the wild and/or feral hog population is currently most dense in Southern Missouri Counties, therefore proper management is imperative to keep them from moving to Northern Counties.

WHEREAS, Commissioners are in agreement that all avenues and resources, Public and Private, of wild and/or feral hog management must be utilized to keep the at-large population in check.

WHEREAS, Mark Twain National Forest represents over two million acres of Public property, which adjoins millions of acres of Private properties, and contains a large concentration of Missouri’s wild hogs.

WHEREAS, we are in consensus that deliberately banning or inhibiting thousands of current law-abiding Public and Private Hog Hunters, Trappers, Landowners from participating in said game management on Public property, and by default, subsequent adjoining Private properties, will ultimately result in rampant over-population in current locations, and threatens to spread across the State.

WHEREAS, we believe that the closure of Mark Twain National Forest will also inadvertently create undue Federal criminal charges against Citizens who have participated in wild hog management on said Public property for generations, for the lawful purposes of recreation, conservation, and human consumption.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the under-signed Missouri County Commissioners hereby go on record in OPPOSITION of the proposal by the US Forest Service to ban Public Hog Hunting on Mark Twain National Forest.