Monday, March 19, 2007

IOWA NEWS: Heartless Poaching or Act of Civil Disobedience?

There's a trial beginning today in eastern Iowa that will be closely followed across the entire state.

A tree farmer will go on trial in Tipton for the unlawful killing of a deer. It's a case that will test whether Iowans can kill the destructive animals on their own property.

Kevin Kelly freely admits that he killed a deer on his property. In fact the 55-year-old said he called the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to report the act.

But Kelly maintains he did nothing illegal. He said he was simply protecting his property and that the deer was harming his tree farm. He frames his case as a test of Iowa's constitution.

"The case will determine whether Iowans can control destructive animals on their private property, as guaranteed by the Iowa constitution," Kelly said.

Others, including DNR officials, do not follow Kelly's logic.

"The case calls into question the North American conservation model, where wildlife is entrusted to the public," said Dale Garner, chief of the DNR's Wildlife Bureau.

Garner said that, under that system, "deer do not belong to private landowners to do with as they please."

Kelly has argued that the Iowa constitution allows property owners to defend their property. He points to an Iowa Supreme Court ruling in 1915 that overturned the conviction of a Pottawattamie County farmer who was accused of shooting a deer that had been eating his corn.

But others say that Kelly had other options, including a variety of programs offered by the DNR. Kelly maintains that the state did very little to help his situation. The state is expected to present evidence to the contrary.

"He should have exhausted all options before he took matters into his own hands," said Tom Fassbinder of Guttenberg, who, like most deer hunters, hopes Kelly is convicted.

"He is a poacher who needs to be punished like any other poacher," said Fassbinder, publisher of the Whitetail Fanatic magazine.

Randy Taylor, the president of the Iowa Bowhunters Association, likewise said that no good can come from a victory for Kelly.

"It would mean open season for any farmer who wants to kill a deer or for anyone else who comes along," said Taylor, of Reasnor.

Others are sympathetic. Corn and soybean farmer Tom Griffin of Winthrop said he has mixed emotions about the case.

"I love deer, but if I were a tree farmer, I would probably learn not to," said Griffin, who described his crop losses to deer as acceptable "because I love to watch and hunt deer."

If convicted, Kelly could be the subject to fines of $100 on each count, plus a civil penalty of $1,500 representing the value of the deer.


1 comment:

Doris said...

Well written article.