Outdoors

Guest blog: Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore's open letter

Idaho Fish and Game is ending a year of celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Fish and Game Mission by the people of Idaho. Hunters, anglers, trappers and others who cared about wildlife wrote it and passed it by a citizens’ initiative, approved by 76 percent of voters in 1938 - still the highest margin of victory for any such initiative in the history of our state.

Fish and Game is proud of our Mission:

Wildlife Policy. All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping. IC 36-103(a)

For me personally, the Mission has been the single most important guide throughout my 37 years as a fishery and wildlife management professional in Idaho. It keeps me on track reminding me who we are at Fish and Game and what we do for the public we serve and I refer to it regularly.

Fish and Game is a public trust management agency providing benefits to Idahoans with specific direction to preserve, protect, perpetuate, (i.e. conserve wildlife), and once that is done, our paramount role is to provide for continued supplies for hunting, fishing and trapping. Harvest of wildlife is implicit in our Mission.

Fish and Game funding in Idaho comes predominantly from hunter and angler user fees, with no state general tax funds. This approach has been a key and successful aspect of the North American Model of Wildlife Management, the most successful large scale approach to wildlife conservation ever taken in the world.

Idahoans hear a lot about threats to that heritage from anti-hunting and anti-trapping groups. In Idaho, I believe we are united in confronting such threats as demonstrated two years ago when the citizens of Idaho reaffirmed our Mission by overwhelmingly approving a constitutional amendment (75 percent of voters). The amendment preserves the public’s right to hunt, fish and trap and states that these are the preferred methods of managing Idaho’s wildlife populations.

In 1977, as a newly hired Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologist, I witnessed the closure of Idaho’s Chinook salmon fishing and I wondered if it was gone for good. Today, we are regularly opening seasons and catching Chinook on the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon Rivers, providing opportunity to thousands of anglers to experience that fishing heritage. Idaho hunters are experiencing one of the best deer seasons in years, thanks to recent mild winters and management that have helped populations grow, providing much opportunity. The new Elk Plan http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/elkPlan/ provides zone-specific population objectives and strategies to deal with limiting factors including predation mortality by wolves and other predators. After four-and-a half successful hunting seasons, working together with Idaho hunters and trappers, we’re getting our wolf population down to more manageable, but still sustainable levels, and our elk population is beginning to show signs of improvement in many zones.

Idaho Fish and Game is front and center as part of Governor Otter’s Sage-Grouse Task Force. Many volunteers, including hunters, are doing everything from participating in population surveys to helping us plant sagebrush. In addition to these on-the-ground efforts, hunters and falconers are helping support sage-grouse conservation through their purchases of licenses and tags. Despite that, a Southern Idaho newspaper recently claimed in print that this year’s sage-grouse hunting season creates a “perception problem.”

I responded with an op-ed pointing out that sage-grouse seasons are set based on science not perception and that we carefully monitor sage-grouse populations and allow hunting only where populations are strong and do not hesitate to close areas where populations or habitat are limiting. That’s how we manage all game species, with sound science, and with opportunity for our hunters, anglers and trappers always in mind.

Fifty three percent of Idahoans fished and thirty five percent hunted in the last two years and our numbers are growing. We certified over 13,500 new hunters, bow hunters and trappers last fiscal year, a 14 percent increase over the previous year. And 3,900 ten and eleven year olds hunted their first deer or elk this year. We are also busy with our “Take Me Fishing” trailers, helping nearly 24,000 people over the last two years learn to fish. These are just a few examples of how Fish and Game, and a dedicated corps of volunteers are working to preserve, protect and perpetuate Idaho’s wildlife and our hunting and fishing heritage.

Indeed, hunting, fishing and trapping generates $1.4 Billion per year for Idaho’s economy, supports over 14,000 jobs and is the second most popular outdoor activity in Idaho (behind camping) because we have such outstanding wildlife resources. Fish, game and other species exist today thanks to your license dollars and the strong foundation for wildlife conservation and management outlined by our forefathers when they created and implemented the Fish and Game Mission. That is why we use it as a daily guide as Fish and Game strives to make Idaho a better place for fish, wildlife, hunters, anglers and trappers, and all citizens who benefit from this incredible resource.

Looking ahead to the next 75 years, I want to both thank you and reassure you that a top priority at Idaho Fish and Game will always be the hunter, angler and trapper and maintaining our wildlife heritage. Demands and issues facing our agency (i.e. endangered species, habitat loss, etc.) are much greater than they were when our Mission was created and the challenges will continue to grow, but nothing will ever be more important than making sure our fish and wildlife populations are healthy and available for hunters and anglers to use.

Virgil Moore, Director of Idaho Department of Fish and Game

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