Critical Habitat: Wildlife Management Areas

Wildlife Management Areas provide habitat for nearly every wildlife species found in Idaho. Each area is unique and has specific priorities outlined in its own management plan.

About two thirds of the wildlife management areas have large wetland components for waterfowl, such as Centennial Marsh, Fort Boise, Market Lake and Boundary Creek wildlife management areas.

The rest are primarily upland habitats, which vary from semiarid shrub habitats in the southern part of the state to forested habitats in northern Idaho. Many of these properties include major big game winter ranges.

At first, Pittman-Robertson funds were the primary source of funding for wildlife management areas in Idaho. This funding mechanism was created by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 – also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act. The law imposed an excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition for distribution to the states for wildlife restoration.

In 1974, the Idaho Legislature established an acquisition account funded by a $2-set-aside from every hunting license, and it generates about $450,000 annually. Mitigation for inundation of wildlife habitat by hydropower dams, such as Anderson Ranch, Palisades and Dworshak dams, has been used to buy WMAs. In 1993, Idaho Fish and Game acquired the Cecil D. Andrus WMA as a donation from the Mellon Foundation.

To date, money for WMA acquisitions has come from:

  • Pittman-Robertson – 31 percent.
  • License sales – 20 percent.
  • Mitigation – 42 percent
  • Donations – 7 percent.

The state owns the land, but Fish and Game makes payments in lieu of taxes to counties – in 2013 that amounted to $176,237, money that helps replace county property taxes.

While many of the wildlife management areas were established to provide habitat for waterfowl and upland game birds, over the years they have turned into much more.

Two of the most popular activities on Idaho’s 23 wildlife management areas are waterfowl and pheasant hunting. Fish and Game stocks about 16,000 pheasant on nine wildlife management areas in southern Idaho during the hunting season.

While they are used for hunting, trapping, and fishing, people also use them for bird watching, hiking, photography and other outdoor recreation. Statewide the areas provide about 700,000 user days annually.

Fish and Game’s vision for this land is: “To provide and showcase important habitat for all wildlife and to offer high-quality, wildlife-based public recreation.”