Friday, February 8, 2013

Gutting an elk shouldn’t be requirement for commission

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is being leg-trapped by its masters in the Legislature and a vocal segment of its stakeholders.
    Its mission of managing and perpetuating fish and game in the state is slowly being shredded by the sclerotic attitude that the only people interested in wildlife —and that the only people who can or should manage fish and game in Idaho—are hunters, fishermen and trappers.
    Members of the Idaho Senate Resources Committee this week voted 5-4 against recommending confirmation of Joan Hurlock to a seat on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Hurlock is Gov. Butch Otter’s nominee for the post and had received a unanimous recommendation from an eight-member screening committee. She would be only the second woman ever appointed to the commission.
    The committee voted after hearing allegations that Hurlock wasn’t qualified for the commission because she had not purchased both hunting and fishing licenses every year of the 10 that she has lived in Idaho. Hurlock has fished all of her life and this fall took her son on an elk hunt. Her father was a California Fish and Game commissioner. She is a marksman, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, a former forensic chemist for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and a former Capitol Hill police officer.
    So, this is what unqualified looks like?
    Opponents in a public hearing claimed that she just doesn’t understand the issues. On the contrary, Hurlock’s opponents don’t understand the issues, the primary one being the decline of dedicated funding for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game that comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses to sportsmen.
    The decline is partially attributable to the fact that as Idaho has become more urban and as electronic diversions have become popular, fewer young people are hunting. Older generations of hunters have dropped the sport or died. Though sales of fishing licenses are increasing, they are not enough make up the funding loss.
    Just 11 percent of Idaho’s population today purchases hunting licenses. An interesting twist in this is that 22 percent of the department’s revenue comes from the sale of hunting licenses to nonresidents who pay a premium for the privilege.
    Fish and Game commissioners walk a tightrope between politics and wildlife science. They constantly are forced to balance the “common wisdom” against the science in managing wildlife. What they do is complex.
    When it comes to the Fish and Game Commission, having commissioners with experience in economics, wildlife biology, chemistry, law, politics, business and marketing exceeds the importance of the experience of gutting an elk with one’s own hands.

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