Idaho Fish and Game commissioners allowed a proposal that would have increased the number of big game and trophy auction hunting tags to die last week without a vote.
The tags would have been sold to raise funds for Idaho Department of Fish and Game programs. Lack of action by the agency leaves only a single bighorn sheep tag in the state’s auction portfolio, but could also prompt legislators to force more auction tags on the commission.
Senate Bill 1236 would mandate that Fish and Game annually auction three tags each for deer, elk and antelope, and one tag each for moose, mountain goat and sheep. The bill was introduced in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, where it has not gotten a hearing.
Commission members, who are cold to the idea, have struggled with the issue for more than a year. During the 2015 legislative session, commissioners pulled their bill that would have increased fees for some hunters and anglers after it became clear it wouldn’t pass without amended language that would mandate auction tags.
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In May, commissioners directed the department to survey hunters for their opinions. The results were unexpected, with 51 percent saying additional auction tags were acceptable. Still, commissioners were reluctant and last month put off a vote that would have added one auction tag each for deer, elk, antelope, moose and mountain goats.
I just see a move toward the auction tags as a move away from that more egalitarian mode and more toward the European system, where the fish and game belong to the landowners instead of the people of the state.
F&G Commissioner Dan Blanco
Instead, they asked the department to hold public meetings around the state to collect more input from hunters. This time, the results were heavily against expansion of the program.
“It was pretty overwhelming,” said Commissioner Dan Blanco of Moscow. “The people who took the trouble to show up to those events and come out were against it.”
A simultaneous online survey registered 80 percent opposition, and 14 people showed up at the public comment section prior to the commission meeting, held Wednesday night, to speak against auction tags. There were no favorable comments.
Blanco has long opposed expansion of auction tags. He said he views them as a mechanism that could erode the North American wildlife management philosophy that fish and game belong to the people of individual states. Auction tags would be disruptive to the tag drawing system that awards hunting opportunity in choice areas based on random luck rather than financial means, he said.
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