Nonresident landowners not entitled to same hunting rights as resident landowners

U.S. Senior District Judge Wesley E. Brown, Wichita, has issued a summary judgment order in favor of defendant Mike Hayden, in his official capacity as secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Summary judgment is a legal term which means that a court -- in this case the judge applying facts presented by both plaintiff and defendant -- has made a legal determination without a full trial.

The order stemmed from a lawsuit filed by George Taulman, a New Mexico resident who owns two ranches in western Kansas. As a nonresident landowner, Taulman is not allowed to obtain a special transferable Hunt-Own-Land deer permit. In addition, because his land is in turkey management Unit 4 and he is a nonresident, he is ineligible for the limited number of turkey permits reserved for the resident-only drawing in that unit.

Taulman argued that as a nonresident landowner, he should have equal access to wildlife on his land as resident landowners do on their land. This would allow him -- and all other nonresident landowners -- to apply for turkey permits in Unit 4, as well as obtain a special transferable Hunt-Own-Land deer permit -- which allows the taking of mule deer or white-tailed deer in any season with equipment legal for that season -- and then transfer that deer permit to a lineal or collateral relative.

Taulman argued that Kansas laws and regulations regarding nonresident landowners and hunting violated the "Privileges and Immunities Clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which states that "Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States."

After analyzing all the facts and legal citations presented by both parties, however, the court found that previous rulings on this clause have determined that "not every state law which discriminates against nonresidents runs afoul of the Privileges and Immunities Clause." Specifically, such discrimination would have to threaten the "basic . . . maintenance or well-being of the Union." One example cited was a case in which a state law threatened a nonresident's commercial livelihood. Kansas law in this case in no way threatens the livelihood of Taulman, the court ruled.

"This case is important for Kansas hunters because it reaffirms the longstanding notion that it is the prerogative of the Kansas Legislature and the Department of Wildlife and Parks [KDWP] to enact laws and regulations that benefit or give preference to resident hunters over nonresident hunters," said KDWP chief legal counsel Chris Tymeson.