For the week of January 20, 1999   thru January 26, 1999  

Gag order is insult

The gag order on Fish and Game biologists is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Idaho and an unnecessary piece of political tush-kissing.

It’s no secret that fisheries experts favor breaching as the best hope for restoring salmon and steelhead runs in the state.

It’s no secret that the Idaho Fish and Game Commission backed department experts in that conclusion in a May vote. The commission did not endorse breaching, leaving that decision to the politicians.

Yet, Idaho Fish and Game Department director Steve Mealey told his fisheries staff earlier this month not to talk publicly about dam breaching until he met with new Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Mealey characterized the gag order as a matter of respect between him and the new governor. It looks more like a political move by a chief whose independent department is desperately looking for money from the state’s general fund. It looks like disrespect for the people who pay his salary, the sports men and women of Idaho.

It looks like groveling before a governor who refuses to endorse public funding for the department and who opposes dam breaching.

The gag order makes no sense unless Mealey believes that he can somehow shade the facts to the governor’s liking. Or worse, tailor the department’s scientific conclusions to fit someone’s political agenda.

If he can, salmon, steelhead and the rest of Idaho’s wildlife have bigger problems than a couple of dams.


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