Poaching should be a felony in Minnesota

Daily Editorial Board

Hunting, fishing and other wildlife and wilderness activities bring hundreds of millions of dollars into Minnesota’s economy every year. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimates that hunting-related retail sales alone reach nearly $500 million annually.
Because wilderness resources represent such a large source of revenue for the state, Gov. Mark Dayton recently announced a push for stricter poaching laws and penalties. 
Two  recent high-profile incidents of poaching in Minnesota also provided an impetus for this proposal. In one case, two male elk were killed and left on state land. The elk were from a herd that is already in decline and has been illegal to hunt for the last three years.
Currently, poaching is punishable as a gross misdemeanor, with penalties including up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $3,000 and the temporary suspension of fishing and hunting licenses. Dayton has proposed making it a felony to intentionally violate Minnesota’s game laws, which would increase the possible penalties and double the length of time violators’ licenses are suspended from five to 10 years. 
Poaching is never acceptable no matter where it occurs. In Minnesota, the offense represents stealing resources that provide an important source of revenue for the economy and recreation for residents. 
We concur with Dayton’s proposition. Enacting harsher penalties on poaching appropriately reflects the importance of Minnesota’s natural resources and may help protect them from future incidences of poaching.