November 8th marks the 75th anniversary of Idaho’s first successful voter initiative, which created the Fish and Game Commission and a civil service system for employees hired on the basis of merit.
As we celebrate the tenacity and commitment of those who worked so hard for the 1938 initiative, keep in mind that wildlife today faces challenges that weren’t even on the radar screen in 1938.
During his presentation at the Summit, Shane Mahoney remarked, “We need all citizens to care, we need all citizens to believe, we need all citizens to engage, and we need to again make it understood that to be concerned about conservation is an act of citizenship.”
Go ahead, commit an act of citizenship. Do your part for wildlife.
What was the Idaho Wildlife Summit?
It’s not 1938 anymore. In August 2012, Fish and Game turned a corner by convening the Idaho Wildlife Summit. The Summit started a conversation among Idahoans about how best to care for their wildlife in these modern times.
Our collective challenge. The Summit is grounded in a legal doctrine called the Public Trust Doctrine, which basically means that wildlife is collectively “owned” by the public at large until an animal is reduced to possession by legal means of take.
Idaho’s wildlife belongs to you. “We all impact wildlife. And, we are all responsible for it,” says Virgil Moore, the Director of Idaho Fish and Game.
Take some time and decide what you can do for wildlife.
Being Inside a Wildlife Bubble - Terry Thomas
It seemed like bird Nirvana. I was on an island in an Idaho lake photographing biologists conducting a survey. I was standing in the middle of over three thousand California and ring-billed gulls. They were circling overhead, dive-bombing, landing or sitting on nests. It was like being inside a wildlife bubble. Their nests littered the ground and were full of either fuzzy gray chicks, newly hatched or emerging chicks or brown-speckled eggs.
American white pelicans kept to the edge of the island where they too had emerging chicks, theirs naked and helpless. Cormorant nests lined every crotch in the skeleton of a tree at the edge of the small clearing in the willows, and Caspian terns kept to their own colony at the edge. Canada geese flushed from nests as we walked toward the gull colony and flocks of ducks flew by. Nesting grebes, ibises and songbirds helped to round out the bird armada.
The ruckus they raised was like a huge orchestra warming up for a concert and I was completely captivated by the sheer massiveness of LIFE! In today’s world it seems so rare to be able to find an area still teeming with wildlife. I realized though that what I was experiencing was not accidental or a mere remnant of a bygone era. Rather, it was the result of decades of people caring deeply for wildlife. When I reluctantly packed up the cameras, I had a renewed sense of hope for the future of wildlife in Idaho.
Newly-hatched American white pelican chicks have no feathers. They are large birds that only eat fish, so they take longer to grow up and learn how to fish from both their parents.
Watch these Fish and Game biologists counting nests on a small island in Idaho. Notice how often they point to a nest! Vibrant nesting colonies such as this one are rare: waterbirds don’t tolerate very much disturbance when they are nesting and raising their young, and most islands are unprotected.
Ring-billed gull chick
Unlike the pelican chick, this ring-billed gull chick has feathers. Gulls are scavengers and don’t need to learn as much about getting food as do pelicans, so they can grow faster and fledge from the nest at a younger age than do pelicans.
Several double-crested cormorant nests line this tree, surrounded by hundreds of California and ring-billed gulls nesting on the ground.
Did You Know . . . ?
Idaho is lucky to host two species of bluebird. Western bluebirds are dark blue with an orange chest and shoulders. Our state bird, the mountain bluebird, is sky blue. These beautiful birds spend their summers in Idaho. In early spring, male bluebirds often provide a welcome first glimpse of spring color, sometimes arriving before the snow is gone.
Bluebirds are cavity nesters. Old woodpecker holes, holes in fence posts or nest boxes are all used. Here, the parent bluebirds raise their 2 - 8 young, feeding them a diet rich in insects. If the insects are plentiful, a bluebird pair may raise a second brood.
Both of Idaho’s bluebirds live in open woodland habitats. Watch for them on your travels around Idaho.
Help protect bluebirds and 6,998 other species of animals in Idaho! Your initial purchase of a mountain bluebird plate gives $25 to the Wildlife Diversity Program and your annual renewal gives $15 each year. That contribution helps Fish and Game maintain viable, self-sustaining populations of all native wildlife and plants and particularly focuses on those species not hunted, fished or trapped.
Decision to improve funding — Soon after the Summit, the Fish and Game Commission and Director Moore decided to focus on improving the funding of Fish and Game to better meet legal mandates and public expectations.
Regional Working Groups — Over 170 Idahoans spent over 1,000 hours combined to brainstorm revenue options for the Wildlife Diversity Program. Fish and Game and the Commission have decided to take action on several of the options.
Shane Mahoney visit — Shane Mahoney (the keynote speaker at the Summit) was in Boise in July. He appeared on Idaho Public Television’s Dialogue program as well as addressed a joint community forum. In both, Mahoney built upon his message from the Summit.