January 27, 2023

Fish & Game is Decimating Our Natural Resources!

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By George Dovel

*Editor’s Note* – The below article appears in the Outdoorsman, Bulletin Number 54, Oct.-Dec. 2013. It is republished here with express permission from the author. Please honor the protection of intellectual property and copyright. The Outdoorsman is the leading publication of truth concerning outdoor issues. To the right on this webpage is a link to follow in which readers are encouraged to subscribe to the print publication. Money is necessary for the continued publication of this important work. Thank you.


F&G is Decimating Our Natural Resources!
By George Dovel

The photo at right[above] was taken about 1895 by A. G. Wallahan of his wife Augusta (“Gusty”) posing with one of the numerous large buck mule deer she reportedly killed over the years. The single shot Remington-Hepburn rifle she is posing with is a far cry from the scope-sighted bolt action repeaters in use today but this didn’t seem to deter her from getting her share of bucks.

I downloaded the photo titled: ‘Augusta Wallahan Grocery Shopping’ from the Jan. 5, 2014 issue of Crittter News, but was unable to trace it back to its original source for further details.
About five years after this photo was taken, Idaho shortened antelope, deer, mountain goat and bighorn sheep seasons and set each bag limit at four animals per year. The elk season was three months long with a two elk bag limit.

By 1945, almost all Idaho big game seasons ran 37 days from Oct. 5 – Nov. 10, with Chamberlain Basin opening 10 days earlier. A bag limit of one elk, where allowed, and one deer existed, except on the Middle Fork of the Salmon where taking two deer was legal.

IDFG Hired First Biologists in 1938

In 1938 when Idaho Wildlife Policy was adopted and five Commissioners were appointed to assure that the policy was followed, the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game had 73 employees. There were 11 headquarters personnel, 38 game wardens, 20 fish hatchery personnel, and four “technicians” who were hired to think of ways to take advantage of the new Pittman-Robertson excise taxes paid by hunters.
Hunters in every state were enthusiastic about taking control of their state fish and game agency from some local politicians who wanted to use license funds for their own pet projects. The chance to receive an additional $3 in excise taxes for every dollar they spent for restoration of wildlife sounded almost too good to be true.

But state game wardens who had spent 40 years rebuilding game populations using tools like controlling excessive ratios of predators to prey, soon realized there were strings attached to the extra “federal” dollars. The Wildlife Management Institute, funded partly by arms and ammunition manufacturers, conducted a “study” of wildlife management in our Western states and insisted they invite non residents to harvest their “excessive” game herds.

The arms and outdoor equipment manufacturers and related industries conducted a massive ad campaign, inducing sportsmen to travel to the remote areas in the western states and take trophy bull elk and buck mule deer, and catch monster trout from “pristine” streams.

Empire Building by Fish and Game

In 1938 IDFG employees trapped and sold pelts of predators and other furbearers and found other ways to support their nearly $300,000 annual budget. Although elk populations in some of the rural areas had not reached capacity, they were abundant in back country areas and mule deer populations had already reached record highs in locations like the South Fork of the Payette River.

If IDFG operations had remained the same fifty years later in 1988, the rate of inflation based on the consumer price index would have increased the budget to $2,517,021. Instead, biologists had taken control of the agency and the 1988 actual expenditures increased to $24,674,500 – 9.8 times the 1938 cost and total inflation!

And eight years later when F&G Director Conley was finally forced to resign, actual IDFG expenditures were $45,258,200 – 13.6 times the base plus $3,333,298 inflation since 1938! For the second time since the late 1940s, biologists had oversold hunter harvest of healthy game herds that had taken many years to rebuild.

In addition to large payments received from both federal and private dam builders to compensate IDFG for flooding big game winter range with their reservoirs, biologists had learned they could also get more money from hunters by making them enter a lottery to draw limited chances to hunt once game became scarce.

Not only were new fisheries created in the reservoirs, but the mitigation money was not used to improve the remaining winter range for big game and other wildlife. The 1990 change in priorities from sustaining annual game harvests to emphasizing non-consumptive use of wildlife was a major reason for this, and also made it even easier to convince hunters to enter a lottery for a better chance to kill scarce game.

Limiting Hunters Is Not Managing Wildlife

It is almost impossible to find a hunter now who has not accepted thousands of hunters drawing for a limited number of controlled hunt permits as a valid tool for managing wildlife. But with the exception of protected wild game that has never been hunted, or where there is not a huntable population, selling chances to draw a limited number of permits is simply a greedy scheme used to increase F&G income from thousands of hunters, while only a handful get to hunt the scarce game.

When game was managed properly, most resident hunters hunted year after year in the same area fairly close to home. But because unguided nonresidents generally head for spots with the highest reported harvests, successful states, including Wyoming, generally limited the number of nonresidents hunting elk in each region to prevent hunter overcrowding.

Older hunters, who remember Idaho’s fantastic general season deer and elk hunting lasting several decades, also remember that biologists expanded the 37-day either-sex elk or deer seasons to 3 months to include hunting during the rut and on winter range. By 1970, this had decimated both elk and mule deer populations.

They also remember the 1970s cure, which included reducing the number of predators, reducing season lengths, and eliminating hunting in the rut and female harvest until the herds had recovered. But even they do not realize that IDFG biologists added nearly 40,000 elk or deer permits on top of general and special weapons seasons in 1996 shortly before Conley resigned.

It is very difficult for most Idaho hunters to accept the reality that their Fish and Game Department biologists stopped managing Idaho’s wild game 20 years ago and have been misleading the hunters who pay their wages ever since. That is especially confusing because IDFG does sort of manage sterile “catchable” non-native trout hybrids and warm water species released in streams or artificial ponds, as well as “put-and-take” pheasants on WMAs.

In other words, they are competing unfairly with commercial shooting and fishing preserves, while making hunters and fishermen subsidize the expenses. But they are letting nature and predators decimate our native wild game.

Pretending that setting hunting seasons and bag limits is the only tool used to manage wild game is like trying to sit on a three-legged milk stool with two of the legs removed. Adding a second leg (habitat improvement) without the third leg (maintaining a healthy predator-to-prey ratio) is simply a waste of time and money.

Governors Deceived About Wildlife Corridors

In February 2007, The Western Governors Assn. (WGA) unanimously approved Policy Resolution 07-01, Protecting Wildlife Migration Corridors and Crucial Wildlife Habitat in the West.” It did this after being assured in written pamphlets that the system would protect the states’ annual income from hunters, fishermen campers and wildlife watchers, and that the “corridors” it referred to were migration corridors between summer and winter range – not the Wildlife Corridors promoted by the “Wildlands Initiative” and “Spine of the Continent.”

Yet six months later, Gregg Servheen sent a letter to NorthWestern Energy outlining 18 broad requirements for a proposed electrical transmission line. These included determining “effects on large carnivore (grizzly bear, wolf, wolverine) populations and habitats, including linkage corridors and genetic interchange, between Yellowstone Ecosystem and Central Idaho Wilderness areas.”

And absolutely nothing was done to protect the states’ annual income from hunters, fishermen, etc. Their assurances to the governors weren’t worth the paper they were written on.

In fact in their “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” presentations to the Wildlife Management Institute on March 28, 2008 and to the Wildlife Society on March 12, 2009, Gregg Servheen and his co-presenter Michele Beucler insisted managing deer and elk for sustained yield is unhealthy. They encouraged wildlife managers to replace hunters with non-hunters and wrote: “Below we give several reasons why we think state wildlife agencies should modulate hunter recruitment and retention efforts.”

Do Western Governors Realize What They Did?

On June 29, 2008, during their annual conference held at Jackson, Wyoming, the Western Governors’ Association, with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter as President, voted to proceed with a 142-page plan to implement their 2007 Resolution to designate and survey critical core wildlife habitat and connecting corridors. The “Corridors Initiative” directed the Governors of all 19 states in the WGA to involve their state wildlife agencies in virtually every phase of the plan.

Meanwhile, Idaho’s largest elk populations are now decimated, existing in a predator pit, and IDFG has lost over $3 million per year just in license, tag and permit fees from non-resident elk hunters. Instead of reducing excessive populations of wolves and other predators to help restore elk and attract the nonresidents who hunt them, IDFG is promoting a 20% fee increase scheme from residents which will penalize those who can least afford it.