I called for the Wildlife Summit because it is time to check in with Idaho hunters, trappers, anglers and other wildlife conservationists. We want to facilitate a conversation about the current status and direction of wildlife management in Idaho in order to keep it responsive to changing needs and interests. Fish and Game needs to understand better what our license buyers and interested Idahoans expect from their state wildlife management agency, so Fish and Game can serve them better.
Wildlife, hunting and fishing are valued by the vast majority of Idahoans. Americans are supportive of the use of wildlife, with 77 percent approving of hunting and more than 95 percent approving of fishing.
The Wildlife Summit will uphold the legacy of hunters and anglers who were among the first conservation leaders in Idaho. In 1938, they championed the passage of Idaho's first citizens' initiative that charged Idaho Fish and Game with managing the state's wildlife as currently in Idaho code:
"All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping."
This mission statement and the initiative that spawned it were born out of shared frustration of hunters, anglers and other wildlife conservationists who saw a lack of direction in the conservation and stewardship of a resource valued by Idahoans. It is our guiding principle in determining how best to represent and meet the needs of hunters, anglers, trappers and others who value wildlife. To me these three sentences say so much about what Fish and Game does and what we strive to accomplish for Idahoans.
Let's look at each sentence of this mission statement and what it means to me.
"All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho."
Simply put, Idaho citizens declared their right to the ownership and stewardship of all of Idaho's wildlife as a public trust.
"It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed."
This made Fish and Game responsible for ensuring all of Idaho's wildlife is managed for our children, grandchildren and all future generations.
"It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping."
This sentence gets to the guts of Fish and Games' mission clearly stating you can only use wildlife in a manner that ensures perpetual supplies. It directs wildlife be managed for harvestable surpluses. But it says nothing about meeting the various desires Idahoans have for their wildlife; about how many, how big, how the resource is distributed around the state and by what method wildlife can be taken. That is the job of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission with input from the public along with scientific information.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has the authority and responsibility to implement the wildlife policy of the state. They set management goals — size, number and distribution — with input from the public and based on scientific wildlife conservation principles. They set the seasons and limits for the species that are hunted, fished or trapped.
Since the initiative was passed nearly 75 years ago, Idaho's human population has tripled from 525,000 in 1938 to 1.6 million today. Today two out of three Idahoans live in cities whereas just 30 years ago half our population lived in rural areas. As a result, wildlife management responsibilities today are broader than in 1938. Federally designated endangered and threatened animals and plants, development impacts on wildlife, and management of nongame species are all parts of Fish and Game's responsibility. This demands more agency responsiveness and resources. Meanwhile license buyers expect to continue their rich heritage of hunting, fishing and trapping for sustenance and recreation.
All wildlife is managed in trust for the citizens of Idaho, yet hunters and anglers pay nearly the entire bill - no state general tax revenue is provided to Fish and Game. Only a small portion of funding comes from Idaho's wildlife license plates, and that is directed to non-game programs. As a result, it is a challenge to address the state's wildlife conservation responsibilities while meeting our mission to ensure hunting and fishing opportunities and programs. We need your help in defining how to meet these challenges.
I'm excited about the Idaho Wildlife Summit as a time for all Idahoans to gather to discuss the future of Idaho's rich wildlife heritage, and how we can serve you better in fulfilling Fish and Game's mission. We want to hear from you. We listened to hunters who expressed concern about the Wildlife Summit original September dates overlapping archery seasons. And because we need to hear from our archery hunters too we changed the dates.
- Virgil Moore, Director