Bill would bar hidden cameras

A reader recently posed a question regarding the status of hidden
camera laws in Iowa. Many livestock producers are concerned about animal rights groups bringing undercover cameras onto the farm.

Legislation has been proposed in some states barring the use of unauthorized videos taken by farm employees and visitors, including Florida, Minnesota, New York and Iowa. In 2006, Congress adopted the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, or AETA, which prohibits animal rights activists from “engaging in interstate travel” to damage or otherwise interfere with animal operations. The law subjects those who violate it to fines and possible prison time.

Some 28 states enacted similar statutes, including Iowa. Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota, specifically addressing photographing farm animals without consent in the current version of their animal terrorism law. However, the federal statute and many state statutes did not specifically address the issue of unauthorized videotaping. Thus, some states have proposed amendments to their current animal terrorism laws or new sections in the ag portion of their codes, including Iowa.

Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill in 2011 proposing to amend Iowa Code §717A (Offenses Relating to Ag Production) by prohibiting animal facility interference, tampering and fraud. The proposed bill prohibits, among other things, a person from willfully and without the owner’s consent producing, possessing or distributing a record that reproduces an image of sound recording at an animal facility.

The bill also prohibits exercising control over an animal facility with the intent to “deprive the animal facility of the animal or property,” or entering onto or remaining at an animal facility, if the person has notice that it is not open to the public. Also, the bill would prohibit animal facility fraud or tampering, such as willfully gaining access to an ag facility under false pretenses, making false statements to gain employment, or damaging property and disrupting the operations conducted at an animal facility.

So what’s the future? Thus far, the Iowa State Legislature has not passed a bill relating to hidden cameras. The bill introduced in 2011 did pass in the Iowa House of Representatives, with several amendments, but did not get through the Senate before the end of the 2011 session.

Endangered species query

Another reader, an Iowa contractor, recently asked us what their duties were under Iowa law with respect to endangered species and tree removal. The Endangered Species Act provides a program for the conservation of federally endangered plants and animals.

In order to comply with the ESA, Iowa has adopted several rules and regulations prohibiting a person from taking, transporting or possessing an endangered or threatened species. “Taking” an endangered or threatened animal in Iowa includes harassing, harming, pursuing, wounding, trapping, killing, capturing or collecting an animal on the list. Anyone found in violation of the Iowa law can be found guilty of a misdemeanor offense.

Under Iowa law, the director of the state Department of Natural Resources is tasked with investigating the fish, plants and wildlife of the state in order to develop information relating to, among other things, the population and habitat needs of protected species. The director is authorized to use scientific and commercial data to compile the list. Upon the director’s findings, the DNR is to publicize an administrative rule listing each species that is threatened and endangered in Iowa.

Every two years, the Iowa Natural Resources Commission reviews the list and has the ability to make amendments.

What about bats?

What if you want to remove a tree that’s home to bats? It depends on the kind of bat. The Indiana bat (aka Myotis sodalis) is listed as a federally endangered species and has been found to have habitat in several counties in Iowa. The Iowa NRCS and the Iowa DNR, in order to comply with the regulations issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the agency that administers the Endangered Species Act) have conducted several training sessions on the removal of the shagbark hickory tree during the summer months when the bats are present.

Tree plays host to animals

The Iowa Natural Resources Commission states that the shagbark hickory is a large-diameter tree that offers a safe haven for females and young Indiana bats to roost under the loose bark, and is habitat for this endangered species.

According to the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service website, removal of shagbark hickory trees is allowed, with prior permission by NRCS, from Oct. 1 to March 31, when the bats are wintering in caves or abandoned mines.

All other bats, unless found to be endangered or threatened, are listed as “protected nongame species.” If you find a bat, other than the Indiana bat, within a building that is occupied by human beings, the bat loses its protected status. And in case you were wondering, the Plains pocket mouse, the spotted skunk and the common barn owl are also among other endangered species in Iowa.

Herbold-Swalwell is an attorney with Beving, Swanson and Forrest in Des Moines. Reach her at eherbold@
bevinglaw.com
.

This article published in the February, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.