Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Mark Doerr accused state legislators Friday of interjecting politics into the agency.
The one-term commissioner from Kimberly announced he won’t reapply for his position.
“We serve at the pleasure of the governor,” Doerr said, “and if he wanted to reappoint me, he would do that.”
Doerr and Commissioner Will Naillon, of Challis, were both notified by the office of Gov. Butch Otter earlier this month that he would not reappoint them to their positions. Otter’s decision was widely seen as political retribution for the commission’s refusal to make it easier for wealthy hunters to win coveted big game tags and for refusing to allow large landowners to sell hunting tags.
During this year’s legislative session, Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, and Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, sponsored legislation that would have forced the commission to offer a number of big game hunting tags for auction. The bill was printed by the Senate Natural Resources Committee but never received a hearing.
At the same time, the commission considered but rejected adopting additional auction tags beyond the one annual bighorn sheep tag that is sold to the highest bidder. Doerr said the politicians wanted the commission to pass something lawmakers didn’t have the political capital to push through the Legislature.
“After several meetings with legislative leadership, it became abundantly clear that they wanted the commission to do their dirty work for them by changing commission policy,” he said in a lengthy statement. “The commission did not change policy due to the overwhelming input of the sportsmen of Idaho to maintain the current policy. The legislators were not happy and it is unfortunate their influence impacted the governor’s decision on commission reappointments.”
Doerr urged legislative leaders to respect the 1938 citizens initiative that created the commission as a way to insulate fish and wildlife management from politics. He also asked them to steer clear of bills in the next session that would force the commission and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to sell more auction tags and institute a system that would allow hunters to receive extra chances at winning tags in the state’s annual controlled hunt drawing or landowners to sell hunting tags.
“The personal, political and financial gain offered by special interests must be intoxicating for those in leadership in the Idaho Legislature because they continually ignore the will of the majority of their constituents, in this case, the sportsmen of Idaho,” Doerr said.
Doerr said he is confident that the remaining commissioners and those who are appointed to take his and Naillon’s place will continue to represent hunters, anglers and wildlife. He said he will accept an offer to serve on a committee that will make a recommendation on his replacement.