Friday, November 2, 2007

More money for wildlife

Like similar agencies in other states, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is facing the worst of all equations.

Funding from hunting and fishing licenses is shrinking in direct proportion to increased demands on the department's growing rural and urban responsibilities.

A nationwide phenomenon is afoot in the hunting industry. The number of hunters declined from 19.1 million in 1975 to 12.5 million last year. The reasons are varied, but the economic impact is certain.

Fish & Game still relies primarily on revenues from sales of hunting and fishing licenses along with some revenues from the federal government. It receives nothing from the state's general tax coffers.

That fact always surprises many Idahoans. And, it's a shame in a state in which all residents value wildlife of all kinds.

Fish & Game is being called on to perform more and more non-traditional activities not directly tied to hunting or fishing. It periodically performs woodlands rescues. It's called on to protect wildlife as much for the benefit of weekend sightseers as for hunters. It will soon be called upon to manage wolves.

More and more, urban areas are relying on Fish & Game expertise in planning and zoning decisions that impact wildlife and its movement in Idaho's wild lands.

It's time Fish & Game began to receive some broad-based funding from the state. Idaho's reputation for great outdoors recreation is what it is largely because of Fish & Game's stewardship.

Keeping Fish & Game healthy is essential for the state's quality of life today and for generations to come.

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