June 3, 2023

Understanding Wildlife Conservation

I read yesterday a letter to the editor of a newspaper in New England. The complaint from the reader/writer was that New Hampshire’s fish and wildlife department wasn’t “conserving” wildlife because they didn’t reduce the number of hunting permits for deer when Maine and Vermont did.

The writer first claimed that because New Hampshire was “wedged between” Maine and Vermont, and those two states suffered deer mortality due to a severe winter, that, “Presumably, the impact on New Hampshire’s deer herd suffered the same toll…”

It’s difficult to respond on a case by case basis, just as well as it is difficult to offer criticism on a case by case basis unless one has all the facts, along with the background to understand those facts. I’m not saying we all should be quiet and blindly let any government agency do anything without keeping a close eye on them and speaking out when necessary.

With all this in mind, let me say that a properly, well-operated and truthful, scientific wildlife management department, make their decisions based on what is best for each designated wildlife management district. In short this means that simply because Maine and New Hampshire suffered deer losses due to a “severe winter,” New Hampshire suffered the same throughout the entire state. Please study and understand the components of the Severe Winter indexes and how these are measured according to geographic regions of each state. It’s quite interesting…even if you don’t agree with it.

If we can actually compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, then perhaps one might have reason to think New Hampshire is operating afoul. If it can be proven that science and the welfare of deer is being exploited for money, or some other sinister reason, then by all means show us the facts.

The same writer also complains that she paid “extra money” to purchase “moose plates” believing that money was being used to, “fund conservation efforts for the benefit of the state’s wildlife,” and seemingly believes that because New Hampshire isn’t reducing or ending hunting, her money is not being spent wisely.

I have no idea exactly what her money is being spent on. I can, however, attempt to reassure the writer that a well-allotted hunting season on game animals, i.e. deer, moose, etc., is an important and integral part of a well-proven, scientific, and healthy management plan.

In addition, the writer appears a bit panicked because she has heard that the fish and game department is considering a “hunting season” on bobcats.

Again, I don’t know the details of this proposal, but assuming (a bad thing, I know) that the New Hampshire fish and game department has scientifically determined that there are too many bobcats that are negatively affecting the anthropogenic “balancing” of wildlife, then we should support that action for the betterment of all wildlife species.

There is a balance somewhere between collecting hunting license fees, dispersing the money to wildlife programs and knowing when to increase, reduce or end hunting of a certain species. I pays to be concerned and become involved in that process. It also requires a solid understanding of the total science behind these efforts. It’s not all just about societal demands…yet.


Idaho F&G Commission Supports Plan to Penalize Residents Who Can’t Afford a License Every Year

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 of 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.

Idaho F&G Commission Supports Plan to Penalize Residents Who Can’t Afford a License Every Year
by George Dovel

After IDFG officials and most other employees spent 14 months promoting the August 2012 Idaho Wildlife Summit, fewer than one-tenth of one percent of Idaho’s sport license buyers attended either the Boise event or one of the six simultaneous regional events. And despite the countless requests for citizen input into the IDFG Draft 2014-2024 Elk Plan that evolved during the 15 months since the Summit ended, the lack of sportsman response to the Draft Plan has also been dismal.

IDFG Failed to Accurately Report the Actual Cost of Planning, Advertising and Holding Its Wildlife Summit

Instead of reporting the actual wages, benefits, travel, use of IDFG communications and other facilities, etc., paid for by license purchasers and used by the several hundred IDFG employees who spent countless hours during the 14 months promoting the Wildlife Summit and soliciting donations, the online IDFG expense report states the following:

“Our records show more then $100,000 of personnel time was spent in support of and planning for this event. These payroll costs are covered by license and other funds already appropriated to Idaho Fish and Game.”

But the fact that license funds existed to restore depleted wild game populations, does not mean it was legal to rob that money from the mandatory annual elk counts, emergency winter feeding fund, restoration of predator-prey balance, etc. and spend it to create another source of income for IDFG from the general public.

That same Wildlife Summit Cost Report – As of September 30, 2012 lists expenses for the three day Summit as $117,673, with pledges from donors to pay $108,385 of that amount. However, more than half of the amount pledged was by the Department or its controversial fund raiser – the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

But the Wildlife Summit expenses did not end when the Summit ended. The time required to present the limited public input changed from days to weeks to months and a final recommendation to charge non-license buyers a fee for their increasing use of WMAs (Wildlife Management Areas) – yet still charge license buyers for the total cost of operating the WMAs – understandably met with strong resistance from the few license buyers who responded.

The “Freeloaders”

One weekend a dozen or more years ago, every vehicle leaving the 2-1/2-mile access road from Horsethief Reservoir in SW Idaho, including ours, was stopped and checked to see how many, if any, of the occupants had purchased some form of sport license from IDFG. My wife and I and our two fishing and camping companions all had licenses but we were certainly in the minority.

During that weekend, 80% of the people using the limited camping and recreation facilities at what was formerly one of Idaho’s top big trout locations had not purchased any form of license from IDFG. Yet they were using the campsites with potable water, rest rooms sanitized daily, and well-maintained roads for camping, boating, etc., while the 20% who bought licenses were footing the bill.

Then as now, IDFG was going through the motions of temporarily appeasing the license purchasers who had paid for the acquisition of the reservoir, for its development as a prime trout fishery, and for the annual maintenance and operating costs. An IDFG employee conducting the vehicle survey even told us they were doing it to calculate the size of fee that would be charged those who were using Horsethief, but were not reimbursing IDFG for their share of the annual operating and maintenance expenses.

Two of Many “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”

But, since 1990 when the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (now AFWA) hired a bird watcher and non-hunters to change state agency priority from hunting to “non-consumptive use” of wildlife, wild game harvests have declined dramatically. After 23 years of substituting this policy, which defies many states’ laws, license buyers are still paying for the free services provided to “the freeloaders,” including some who oppose hunting.

Another “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” that is no longer promoting managing wild game to provide sustained
harvests for hunters is the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). Although there are three other regional fish and wildlife associations (Northeast, Southeastern and Midwest) whose leadership is impacting AFWA, WAFWA is the oldest and its illegal promotion of the alleged rights of non-hunters over hunters is slowly being adopted by the other three.

Originally formed in 1922 as the “Western Association of State Game Commissioners” to protect the states’ exclusive right to manage their wild game, WAFWA added “and Fish” in 1957 to reflect WMI President Ira Gabrielson’s insistence that each state game agency should also manage its fish.

The Delayed Bombshell That Nobody Recognized is Now Used to Destroy Management of Wildlife

In 1978, claiming it was “reflecting the new set of values emerging,” the Western Association changed its name again from “Western Association of State Game and Fish Commissioners” to “Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.” Also in 1978, Western wildlife biologists easily convinced several state legislatures to change their legal definition of “Wildlife” from Webster’s “mammals, birds and fish hunted by man,” to the U.N. definition “any form of animal life, native or exotic, generally living in a state of nature.”

The change sounded innocent enough – simply using a universally accepted way to define wild animals as “generally living in a state of nature,” as opposed to domesticated animals living in pens or fenced enclosures. But hunters and their legislators appeared not to realize that “animal life” includes not just mammals but several hundred thousand reptiles, birds, insects, protozoa etc.

In Idaho Wildlife Policy Code Section 36-103, the original definition “all wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds and fish” was left alone. But the definition of wildlife was changed in 36-201(g) where its new meaning would soon be used to destroy the wild game management Director Greenley was then using to restore depleted game.

WAFWA’s Student Propaganda Program

And the following year (1979), to make sure a new generation of hunters wouldn’t oppose the biologists’ plan to permanently halt wild game management for hunting, WAFWA joined with the radical environmental group the Council of Environmental Education (CEE) to teach new generations its claim that civilized interference in natural resources was “destroying formerly ‘healthy’ ecosystems.”

WAFWA agreed to let CEE use youngsters’ fascination with wildlife as a way to reach them, and then train them to “recognize human activities that (allegedly) damage ecosystems.” In their Project Wild lesson plans for children from Kindergarten through Grade 12, they subtly preach that it damages an ecosystem to extract fossil fuels, or to control predators in order to obtain a temporary increase in desirable prey species.

For example in the chapter (lesson plan) in their 537-page Project Wild Curriculum titled “Changing Attitudes” they explain: “predator control was more or less taken for granted 60 years ago…but now it is more generally recognized that predators have a role in the health of all ecosystems.” They point out that predator control is now generally limited only to *specific predators that can be identified as causing damage.

(* that scenario has been adopted, without legislative input, as part of most Western state predation management plans, and most predators are now protected, with severe federal fines and prison sentences for humans who harass or harm them)

Project Wild Includes Anti-Hunting Propaganda

Like many other parts of the Curriculum Guide, the chapter titled “The Hunter” ignores the federal law that prohibits spending sportsman license or P-R excise tax dollars on projects that question the morality of hunting. Instead it requires the students to read or listen to a short story based on the depression era in which a young hunter takes aim at a buck – but then asks himself if he has the right to kill a beautiful deer that survived a severe winter, just to provide meat to feed his family.

The students are also required to read comments from three groups that either oppose some or all hunting, as well as a “lukewarm” endorsement of hunting from Ducks Unlimited and comments from the NRA that hunting of animals that would otherwise die is a healthy experience both physically and spiritually. Then each student must write an ending to the depression era deer hunt story, poll citizens to get their opinion of hunting, and then debate whether or not hunting is too cruel to be allowed.

“Death of Wildlife Management” Agenda

Since 1983 when Project Wild first became operative in several western states, its expansion and portrayal of civilized man’s alleged destruction of healthy ecosystems has destroyed the ability of an entire generation to make rational judgments about the conservation and wise use of natural resources. WAFWA still pretends it is helping recover species but a look at those species now reveals its real agenda is the death of biological wildlife management.

The Pygmy Rabbit Recovery in Washington began in 1979 before the animals were even listed as threatened, with millions of dollars wasted buying land, improving habitat and attempting to discourage predators rather than control them. By 2004 the rabbits were extinct in the wild and efforts to introduce genetically healthy Idaho rabbits without intensive predator control continue to fail.

The Mule Deer Initiative introduced by WAFWA in 2005 has included a series of magazine-length WAFWA publications in which mule deer biologists insist restoring native plants and animals – including large predators – will automatically restore healthy mule deer populations. But after eight years, predators continue to decimate mule deer.

WAFWA then told the states with sage grouse populations to copy and then adopt severe restrictions on human activity written by federal biologists, where each state had only a minority vote to make minimal changes. Idaho’s and Wyoming’s attempt to exclude several small areas from extreme grazing restrictions has already been overturned by activist Judge Lyn Winmill, who in 2012 ordered the BLM to immediately place the needs of sage grouse above the needs of cattlemen.

Under CHZ Wildfire ii., WAFWA’s Grouse Plan submitted by Idaho Gov. Otter states: “Only human safety and structure protection shall take precedence over the protection of sage-grouse habitat.” No matter whether it’s deer and elk or sheep and cattle on public or on private land threatened by wildfire, if any sagebrush in the newly designated 5.7 million acres of core sage grouse habitat in Idaho is threatened by wildfire, federal, state and local firefighters must first protect the sagebrush before attempting to protect big game or livestock.


How do you rationalize the nearly 100 cows and calves that burned to death near Fairfield in August, or the deer and elk that had to be put down, or had already died like the cattle, when aerial tankers and other fire-fighting equipment’s top priority was protecting sagebrush? In my experience, this priority elminates the ability to prevent thousands of acres of fire destruction by using helicopters or hot shot crews to extinguish critical small fires.

WAFWA Promoted False Public Trust Doctrine

In 1985 WAFWA began surveying all citizens, rather than just hunters and fishermen, and in 2004 it used P-R/D-J funds to determine that most college-educated women living in larger cities approved using hunter license fees to fund the ladies’ bird-watching activities (duh!). Michele Beucler, who organized the survey in her dual role as “Human Dimensions” specialist for both WAFWA and IDFG, used the Colorado State University survey results to justify The Idaho Compass, with its change in emphasis from managing Idaho’s wildlife scientifically to ignoring biological management.

With increasesd emphasis on Human Dimensions rather than continuing to manage wildlife, WAFWA made the decision to replace most licensed hunters with citizens who do not hunt or fish. Because all non-hunters already have the same access to wildlife and to the Commission as those who buy sport licenses, WAFWA and Beucler began to circulate the claim that managing wildlife for sustained harvests for hunters deprived nonhunters of their ability to enjoy their nonconsumptive use of wildlife.

On July 26, 2006 WAFWA adopted a resolution agreeing to use the Public Trust Doctrine as a tool to force “democratic” access to wildlife for everyone. The resolution included a commitment to work with AFWA to pursue the legal language to make the PTD effective.

In 2008 Beucler’s presentation to the Wildlife Management Institute titled, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Reflections from a Non-hunter,” pulled no punches in declaring their intention to end wildlife management that benefits hunting.

In her presentation, she and IDFG non-hunting Wildlife Program Coodinator Gregg Servheen insisted that managing to provide continued supplies of wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping resulted in “persecution, reduction, and extirpation of predators; introduction of non-native and invasive species; habitat damage from an overabundance of herbivores; artificial propagation of game animals; and several others.”

Although it is contrary to published information, Beucler falsely claimed repeatedly that management of wildlife for hunting violated the Public Trust Doctrine. The anti-resource-user group, “Western Watersheds,” promptly began to parrot her claims.

Beucler also told her audience that the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation must be modified because of its failure to address more serious 21st Century conservation issues such as “increasing housing development” and “nature deficit disorder.” In 2009 she and Servheen gave that same “Mirror, Mirror” presentation to the Wildlife Society at its annual meeting in Moscow.

Beucler: “It’s Time to Bury Wildlife Management And Find a New Path into the 21st Century”

In 2010, as President of the Organization of Wildlife Planners, Beucler wrote the lead article in OWP’s “Wildlife Tracks” titled, “The Death of Wildlife Management.” Using the same false claims of ecosystem damage and declining participation in hunting and fishing as in her workshops, her article said the time has come to bury wildlife management and find a new path into the 21st Century.

She proposed that instead of mourning the death, it should be considered a “transformation” and she suggested managers take advantage of the Transformation Teams at “MAT” that were already being set up. The Management Assistance Team (MAT) is an affiliate of the national Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in Washington, D.C. but it has been located at the National Conservation Training Center at Shepherdstown, West Virginia since 1999, and run by FWS with help from various NGOs.

It is funded by part of the $6 million-dollar annual grant of federal P-R and D-J excise taxes called “State Wildlife Grants” (SWGs) that Congress took from sportsmen and gave to AFWA to administer. The SWG funds are supposed to help hunters and fishermen but are being used instead to destroy the wild game and fish that were abundant in the late 1940s – 50s and in the mid 1980s.

MAT provided the expertise to help Virgil Moore make the “Transformation” more than a year ago in a special workshop with restricted attendance. If you check out the AFWA and MAT websites you will find that managing deer, elk, moose, caribou, etc. is no longer part of either agenda and you will find that seven supervisory employees in IDFG have taken special training at the National Conservation Leadership Institute in the past seven years to join a special network of 207 “Fellows.”

Finally, if you live in the 19 western states, three western Canadian Provinces or the Yukon Territory and believe the Western Association understands your problems and represents you – nothing could be further from the truth. WAFWA is located near Washington, D.C. on the infamous “Beltway” at 2903 Saintsbury Plaza in Fairfax, Virginia, and is a consultant to FWS, USFS and to virtually all of the pseudo-government agencies like itself that are “slopping at the same trough.”

Biologists’ Waged War on “Meat Hunters”

During the late 1960s, selling extra hunting opportunity with deliberate over-harvesting caused Idaho’s mule deer and elk populations to reach record lows. A three-year legislative audit and legislators who understood the value of our renewable natural resources, forced replacement F&G Director Greenley to discard 10 years of false harvest estimates and instruct his biologists to stop lying to the public.

But his biologists responded by pretending the families or groups of friends who spent their annual vacation in hunting camps securing game meat for their family were the reason for declining game. F&G designed hunter surveys that emphasized minor reasons for going hunting and ridiculed the hunter who said he valued the opportunity to obtain healthy wild game for the table.

Biologists implied that “meat hunter” described a greedy individual who did not respect the big game animals he or she killed for the healthy protein to feed their family, and did not pay them enough for the privilege of harvesting it. Hunters became so sensitive about saying that their reason for hunting was seeing enough game to know they had a reasonable chance to harvest, that it was rarely listed as a major reason.

Meat Hunters Jumped From 22% to 56% in 7 Years

In 2011 when Virgil Moore told the media and environmental activists that the reason for his promoting the 2012 Wildlife Summit was the ongoing decline in hunters, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation Survey had already announced that the number of hunters who bought licenses in the U.S. since its 2006 survey had actually increased by 9.3% and both hunt and fish increased 10%.

It has taken a generation for meat hunters in the West to get over the stigma biologists attached to the “meat hunter” label. But a comparison of RM’s (Responsive Management’s) 2006 and 2013 surveys of the primary reason hunters hunt, shows a 59% increase in the percent of United States hunters who claimed getting wild meat was the primary reason they hunted last year (see below).


But the 59% jump from 22% to 35% of all hunters still does not tell the whole story. The RM survey found that Idaho was one of seven states that reported the highest percent of increase in resident hunters so it did another survey of those seven states, but asked respondents to state their own primary reasons for hunting – instead of choosing an answer from supplied multiple choice answers as they had the first time.

In those seven states an average of 56% said they went hunting for meat or food. So instead of 35%, the percent of reported meat hunters increased from 22% to 56% when hunters were allowed to provide the most suitable answer. This illustrates how Fish & Game multiple choice surveys twist the truth to suit its agenda.

Today’s Highly Inflated Costs to Hunt and Fish

When two of our older sons first attended school in Garden Valley, Idaho in 1970, the opening day of deer season was a school holiday for hunters. It cost $11 for anyone to hunt and fish for everything except four rare limited-hunt “trophy” species.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator, licenses, tags and permits to hunt, fish and harvest the same species in 2013 should cost $66.08 now for either an adult or a juvenile hunter. But, purchased separately in 2013, a juvenile hunter/fisherman must now pay IDFG $164.50 to hunt and fish for exactly the same species, and an adult must pay $214.75!

Even if a discounted “Sportsman’s Package” is purchased up front, it now costs each juvenile or adult almost twice what it should based on the value of our dollar. But the thousands of Idaho households who can’t afford to spend $124.25 for each hunter in the family half a year before they can even receive tags to hunt, are forced to pay 2-1/2 times as much for each youth and 3-1/4 times as much for each adult hunter just to be able to hunt the species they could in 1970 with the same weapons.

Nearly Half of Idaho Households Can’t Afford Fees

When Michele Beucler gave her “Mirror, Mirror…” presentations, she admitted that hunting has become a rich person’s sport that nearly half of Idaho households with annual incomes below $40,000 cannot afford. She offered proof that households with $100,000 annual incomes retained all of their hunters yet those with Idaho’s median or lower incomes did not.

But instead of suggesting IDFG stop overcharging hunters and stop using hunting fees to support freeloader programs, she proposed state wildlife agencies should stop managing wildlife and reduce their efforts to solicit and retain young hunters.

The “North American Model…” was built on the concept of allowing every resident who wants to hunt, fish or trap, regardless of wealth or status, an equal opportunity to hunt and harvest wild game. But Beucler claimed the agencies should instead be modifying the Model to encourage the vast majority of citizens who do not hunt to join them and thus “garner their financial and political support.”

Her justification for this was the false claim that “Wildlife values are shifting away from wildlife use towards wildlife protection.” But despite teaching this lie to our youngsters and to any adult who will listen, in 2012 a whopping 73.4% of Idaho voters approved making hunting a Constitutional right and the number of residents calling themselves hunters who buy a license some years is increasing along with our population!

State game departments and quasi-government groups like WAFWA, AFWA and the WMI (Wildlife Management Institute) keep pretending they support the North American Model and the State’s Wildlife Laws that manage for sustained yield. Yet they have forced some of the most ardent and potentially skilled young hunters to quit hunting because they can no longer afford to pay the extreme cost of purchasing a reasonable chance to harvest a deer even once every five or more years.

The bottom line is that Idaho and many other states already charge fishermen and especially hunters absurdly high license fees, yet refuse to use the money as promised in The Compass on Dec. 23, 2004, “solely to manage fish and wildlife for hunting and fishing.” Using a variety of deceptions to hide what they are doing, they misuse (steal) several million license dollars every year and spend that money pretending to “manage” ecosystems.

In a November 17, 2013 magicvalley.com news segment, Times-News reporter Brian Smith wrote: “Idaho Department of Fish and Game brass will pitch a new way to squeeze more revenue from hunters and anglers by creating incentives for them to purchase a license every year.” Under the new proposal, Fish and Game would raise all resident licenses, tags and permits by 20 percent in 2015, but then lock in rates at 2014 prices for those who continue to buy an annual license and tags every year.


Photo of Deputy Director Sharon Kiefer, explaining proposed fee increase penalty to F&G Commissioners on Nov. 14, 2013.

Many less affluent families are already forced to require youngsters and even some parents to take turns hunting and this would force them to pay the 20% increase in all fees when it was their turn to hunt. This is an obvious move to force more hunters and fishermen to buy the Sportsman’s Package every year for the discounted price of $124.25, rather than pay the $149.10 which will be charged beginning in 2015, reportedly for 3 to 5 years.

In his Jan. 29, 2013 discussion with legislative budget writers reported by Betsy Russell, Virgil Moore said: “Only 10 percent of people in our license database have had a license every year for the last five years – that surprised me. I thought it would be higher. It certainly shows that we do have a huge customer base out there.”

Idaho sells about 300,000 resident licenses a year to adults but it has about 750,000 different names in its database of residents who’ve purchased licenses within the past five years. There is little doubt that a large segment of the 90% who do not buy resident licenses every year are the families that have been forced to take turns hunting because it is too expensive with such lousy odds of harvest.

Moore’s claim that youths’ interest in electronic games over the last 20 years has caused them to stop hunting despite plenty of hunting opportunity is an excuse with no proof. Over-harvesting mule deer and elk followed by the severe 1992-93 winter and IDFG’s refusal to feed, caused populations and harvests to nose-dive. Refusal to manage game for the last 20 years has kept game at or near record lows and youths can’t eat “hunting opportunity.”