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Idaho Senate committee approves "Fix Your Danged Fence" bill

Wikimedia Creative Commons/James Rickwood
Sen. Mark Harris's increases the penalty for landowners who refuse to fix their fences and allow their livestock to roam all over the place.

The legislation addresses an issue near and dear to the heart of Gem State ranchers

The Idaho legislature this year is considering high profile issues like education funding, tax cuts and tweaks to the election system. But in rural Idaho, things like broken fences are big issues too.

Senator Mark Harris, a Republican rancher from the southern Idaho of Soda Springs, has introduced what is known as the Fix Your Danged Fence bill.

“There’s a conflict there and I’ve been wrestling with it for quite awhile," he said at a Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee hearing this week in Boise.

That conflict is over downed fences and livestock wandering around on the range.

“You’ve heard the old saying, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ I would go further to say good fences protect private property rights on both sides of the issue," he said.

Harris says his bill is inspired by complaints from his peers.

“When they tell the landowner that they’ve got a hole in the fence, that they need to fix their fence, keep their animals in, sometimes the response is ‘I don’t have to. Idaho is an open range state'," he said.

The bill adjusts upward the penalties for neglected fences that are reported by neighbors to authorities, especially for repeat offenders.

His bill has the support of at least two statewide agricultural groups. It passed out of committee this week and heads to the full Senate for debate.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.