Monday, 01 June 2009 00:00

Idaho Hunters Mad At Their Fish And Game Department

Written by Hunters Alert
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The Outdoorsman is a newsletter published by a group of Idaho sportsmen. Like HUNTER’S ALERT, the newsletter prints the truth about how their fish and game department is and has been mismanaged for years. The Outdoorsman makes sportsmen aware of who is responsible for the mismanagement and why sportsmen are losing the battle in Idaho and other states. You will not read the information they produce in any other publication. The similarities between Idaho and Nevada are striking. Idaho has predator problems, sportsmen’s money being spent on non-game projects, and no faith in their director or Wildlife Commission. The only difference in Nevada is that some, not all, of the new Wildlife Commissioners appointed by Governor Jim Gibbons want to correct the serious problems which have been placed on Nevada hunters by inept former directors and commissioners.

Below are excerpts from the Oct-Dec 2008 Outdoorsman. Let’s make comparisons between Idaho and Nevada.

TO (The Outdoorsman)    HA (HUNTERS’ALERT)

TO: Like countless other concerned Idaho citizens, these two leaders in Idaho’s hunting community have followed the advice of the last four Idaho Governors to work within the system to restore responsible resource and fiscal management. The thousands of hours and dollars they and other responsible citizens have quietly donated to the effort with no visible improvement is evidence that the system is beyond simple repair. – ED

HA: This is what Larry Johnson, the self-appointed sportsmen’s guru representing Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and The Coalition preached. He could have cared less about sportsmen’s concerns as long as he got what he wanted from NDOW and the Wildlife Commission. He stated many times that he worked within the system. He failed to realize as the Outdoorsman stated, that because there was no visible improvement, it is evidence that the system is beyond simple repair which Larry refuses to believe.

TO: You, the members of the Commission, the Department Director and the Department’s leadership have been poor stewards of our elk, deer, moose and antelope resource and even worse stewards of resident and non-resident hunter, angler and trapper revenues and associated Pittman-Robertson (P-R) and Dingell-Johnson (D-J) revenues. The reality of our State’s poor ungulate resource stewardship has come about because of the reality of your disengaged, rubber-stamp revenue stewardship.

HA: This is stated perfectly for the leadership in NDOW and the former Wildlife commissioners. They were poor stewards of game and money management. Former Wildlife commissioners did not question NDOW about reckless decisions or even care about the loss of the majority of our deer.

TO: The Department, having admitted that the above noted revenues are spent robustly and routinely on non-game and non-essential programs either don’t fund them at all or only fund then on a very limited basis. Those “free-loaders” are mostly smug members of both political parties who do not hunt big game, don’t like sportsmen much, but do compliment the Fish and Game Department for those wonderful free programs provided to them.

HA: This is exactly what NDOW is doing. For years, they have partnered with the antis so there would be no conflict with them. In other words, to hell with the sportsmen who pay their wages.

TO:  State Wildlife Grants (SWG) from federal oil dollars rarely benefit the hunted, fished for and trapped species…Additionally the proceeds of the federal laundering ( a redistribution) of sportsmen’s P-R and D-J excise taxes/revenues that return to mainly Idaho’s anti-hunter types or their barely hunter-tolerant brethren under the title of the Multi-State Conservation Grant Program (MSCGP). That MSCGP program requires a federal fix. All of those revenue sources pale in comparison to those coming from sportsmen.

HA: This is exactly what has been going on with NDOW for over 20 years. None of the former Wildlife Commission chairmen had the guts or the knowledge to question NDOW’s finances. The misappropriation of money was so bad that it took two concerned sportsmen’s organizations, HUNTER’S ALERT and Nevada Hunters Association, to get a bill passed in which NDOW will be audited every other year. New Wildlife Commission chairman Gerald Lent has established a financial committee. It will be that committee’s job to see if and how sportsmen’s money is being misappropriated.

TO: Additionally, the proposed 2009 Department budget has Idaho hunters, anglers and trappers funding numerous non-game and non-hunting/fishing/trapping expenditures…I believe the answer lies in a reassignment of departmental missions away from the F & G Department to other offices in our State government…Such bold actions and others would take the long-endured financial burden off of the backs of hunters, anglers and trappers.

HA: Once again, like Nevada, sportsmen’s money is being used for non-game expenditures. For many years, HUNTER’S ALERT has stated that all non-game functions should come under the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This is where it belongs. There is no Nevada Revised Statute that states sportsmen should fund 100 percent of all wildlife. Hunter programs suffer when their money is spent on non-game projects.

TO: In December of 1996 Steve Mealey was hired as Idaho F&G Director to correct the mismanagement of wildlife and license dollars by former Director Jerry Conley. After several weeks of meeting with agency employees and the various interest groups, Mealey vowed to end the practice of what he termed “combat biology,” and issued a set of working principles to all Department personnel to be followed for the next six months.

“Provide Healthy Sustainable Wildlife”

His Directive explained: “Our main business is to provide excellent public service, and healthy, sustainable wildlife. We do this by assisting the Commission in carrying out the state’s wildlife policy. We are advocates for wildlife in partnership with, especially, county commissioners, state legislators, the governor and sportsmen.”… A former wildlife biologist, Mealey explained the necessity of controlling predators to the media…While Mealey was rebuilding the Department’s credibility with legislators and resource users, eco-activists in the agency conspired to undermine his leadership.

In the two years he survived the conspiracy to get him fired, he implemented systems to provide accurate big game population and harvest information, and criteria to maintain adequate recruitment and adults of both sexes. The systems still exist but the money to make them work is being used to fund non-hunting/non-fishing programs promoted by interest groups in the Nation’s Capitol.

HA: What a pleasant surprise. A director of a Fish and Game agency who wanted to do what was best for sportsmen and the game. NDOW has not had that type of person for over four decades so it is no wonder why NDOW is in such bad shape. The anti’s did not like Steve Mealey doing his job so he only lasted two years. The directors of NDOW have sided with the anti’s and in doing so, have kept their jobs until their retirements.

TO: License Fees Also Pay Nongame Infrastructure Costs

In addition to their wages and benefit costs, these non-game employees nearly double the requirement for office space, computers and other high-tech equipment, utilities, communications, maintenance, vehicle use, other infrastructure and capital outlay – all of which are in short supply -  with no adequate source of income to pay those extra costs except hunters’ and fishermen’s license fees.

 

But because these expenses are included in the budgets of the various Bureaus, with no breakdown of what dollars pay for what expenses, F & G can pretend sportsmen are not paying “most” of them. They ignore the fact that sportsman license dollars fund a majority of the expenses in all but one of the Bureaus.

 

That is why analysts from the Legislative Services Budget Office and the Division of Financial Management insisted F&G trace the source of every dollar spent to prevent the appearance that it is hiding something (June-July 2008 Outdoorsman).  And the reason IDFG failed to keep its commitment to do this is because it is hiding something – its ongoing misuse of sportsman license fees to fund its eco-activist programs.

 

HA: This problem is a duplicate of NDOW’s. Once the new Wildlife Commission’s Finance Committee digs into NDOW’s expenditures, many questions should be answered, unless of course they are hiding something.

TO: Selling more hunting opportunity did not solve the lack of adequate funding for multiple non-game programs, yet IDFG took over the entire TNC (The Nature Conservancy) Heritage Program (now CDC [Conservation Data Center]) from Parks and Rec. in 1987.

Hiring nongame biologists to “manage” over 1,000 recorded Idaho non-game vertebrates and invertebrates and accepting responsibility (and hiring botanists) to “manage” 2,800 Idaho plant species from Parks and Rec. in 2003 (see page 3) placed an impossible burden on the agency and on the hunters and fishermen who foot the bills.

HA: HUNTER’S ALERT has stated for years that NDOW does not manage game for the species or the hunter, but they manage for the money. NDOW’s chief biologist spends zero days in the field. The non-game biologists spend more time in the field than that. NDOW has a non-game bureau called The Biodiversity Bureau. Sounds great! But do Nevada sportsmen fund this or are Pittman-Robertson and Dingle-Johnson funds being used illegally to fund this bureau? For sure, the antis are not funding it. Nevada sportsmen need truthful answers about all of NDOW’s funding.

TO: The scarcity of mule deer in most general season units is impacting efforts to recruit juvenile hunters regardless of their desire or marksmanship ability…The change in F&G priorities from perpetuating Idaho’s wild game and fish populations to supporting The Nature Conservancy’s ecosystem agenda was apparent during the recent Commission meeting…neither IDFG nor any Commissioner expressed any reluctance about charging hunters and fishermen a few million more dollars to help fund those non-hunting, non-fishing programs…Forcing hunters to provide most of a $21 million bailout to an agency that has become dysfunctional would simply prolong the destruction. A more logical approach is downsizing by getting rid of the no-productive employees and restoring the agency’s ability to produce.

HA: How do you get youth involved when you don’t see a deer while out deer hunting? Sportsmen must learn who their enemies are and The Nature Conservancy ranks very high in that category.  Getting rid of non-productive employees is not (like Idaho’s) in NDOW’s program. To repeat, NDOW’s chief biologist spends zero days in the field.

TO: Is It Wrong For The Sportsmen Who Pay The Bills To Get Something For Their Money? By Harvey Peck

The legislators are the only people that can make a change in the department to bring back the wildlife in our state for the people that pay the bills.

HA: Harvey Peck was right on target with his assessment. Most sportsmen rely on Fish and Game agencies and Wildlife Commissions to do what is right for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. They don’t listen to sportsmen and therefore, sportsmen must legislate. In Nevada, the Wildlife Commissioners are to set policies and procedures for NDOW. The problem with that is that in the past, Wildlife Commissioners were appointed by the amount of money they donated to the governor’s campaign. In other words, no wildlife knowledge needed, just many thousands of dollars to get appointed. Because they did not have the capability to be a Wildlife Commissioner, NDOW controlled them from the very beginning. This made going to the Legislature a must. The people who opposed changes at the legislative session to benefit sportsmen were the Wildlife Commissioners, the director of NDOW and sportsmen’s groups such as Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and Safari Club International Northern Nevada Chapter, who were closely aligned with NDOW. Even with all that opposition, Nevada Hunters Association and HUNTER’S ALERT have been responsible for getting many bills passed for sportsmen’s benefit.

TO: Based on the lowest BLM per-acre figure for re-establishing shrub-steppe habitat, it would cost five billion dollars to rejuvenate the 10% or less of Idaho considered winter range for deer.

HA: If it costs billions of dollars to re-establish winter range, what would the cost be for wildfire damage? The main reason for blaming habitat is that it is a stalling tactic. When in doubt about the loss of game, blame habitat. Of course, it would take many, many years, possibly even a decade or two to bring back habitat. By then, the Fish and Game employees will have their 20 or 30 year pension checks coming in on a regular basis. Another aspect of the habitat bunch is they are adamant against predator control. They believe habitat will cure all the ailments. Of course, they won’t give you a date when this will happen. Predator control is instant. Habitat will work, maybe, someday but certainly not in the near future.

TO: The Truth about Mule Deer Initiative Range Rehabilitation

The assortment of botanists and native plant enthusiasts who lead the ecosystem “management” cult in state game management agencies now influence every aspect of game management. They and the federal agencies involved in “habitat restoration for wildlife” programs for nongame species, now include game species such as sage grouse and mule deer in their projects in order to legitimize them as well as to justify the use of hunters’ license and P-R dollars to fund them…Like IDFG, Nevada DOW is blaming its mule deer decline on wildfires, invasive plants, etc. and promising that deer  populations will start improving down the road once it can restore its portion of that shrub-steppe ecosystem.

HA: This is absolutely true in Nevada. NDOW has produced literature praising the Biodiversity Bureau stating that what they are doing for nongame also benefits game. That’s fine except that sportsmen are funding all of the projects. By using habitat as the excuse for Nevada’s declining deer numbers, they don’t have to do any predator control. When a Fish and Game agency needs to blame habitat for its failures, it means that they want to lie, stall, wait, study, hope,  put off, sidestep, think about it, or form a study committee. By the way, the last time HUNTER’S ALERT checked on NDOW’s excuses for losing the majority of our deer, the number was 15. Fourteen of the excuses are things that can’t be prevented. However, predators are something that they can do something about and they refuse.

Fish and Game News or Nongame Propaganda?

By Jim Hagedorn

The following is excerpted from a letter sent by Jim Hagedorn to Director Groen of the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

…Director, you and your staff spend all this time on non-game when so many of the animals or birds we value as game; elk, mule deer, antelope, pheasants, grouse, Huns and many other species, are or soon will be on the “threatened” list….The Department no longer even tries to hide the fact that they use very badly needed sportsmen dollars to fund non-game agendas.

HA: This is exactly how many, many Nevada hunters feel. NDOW and the former Wildlife Commissioners failed to listen to the many disgruntled hunters. However, the directors who retired could have cared less. Their retirement was the same even though they sold out the sportsmen who paid for their retirements. Like Idaho, NDOW uses sportsmen’s money to fund non-game programs. Of course, they don’t admit this.

TO: When the supply of wild game declines below a reasonable level, fewer people purchase hunting licenses, tags and permits…One of the worst deceptions of all is the claim that nongame, with its CDC activities, interpretive centers, and “WILD” activities statewide, costs less than 2% of the F&G Budget. Just the salaries and benefits of all NG employees alone cost several times that amount!

HA: It’s hard to sell something you don’t have. That’s why fewer people are purchasing hunting licenses and tags. Fish and Game agencies use fuzzy math when asked how much non-game costs the agency.

TO: ID, MT Officials Report Declining Harvests

In 2008, spot checks and check station records, mule deer hunters in Idaho reported the worst harvest in years and elk hunters in many units, both north and south of the Salmon River, Checked significantly fewer harvested elk than in previous years.

Hunter Proposals Seek State Management

As is happening in Idaho, Montana hunters are extremely upset by the lack of game, and some agricultural groups that have remained aloof are now reportedly joining hunters in a united effort to introduce legislation to remedy the problem.

HA: Nevada is also in the same position with the declining harvest figures. In 1988, the deer harvest was 26,784 and it fell to 5982 in 2003. It was 15 years and 15 different excuses have been used by NDOW for this decline.  Legislation is a must. When NDOW and the former Wildlife Commissioners failed to do their job, two sportsmen’s organizations, HUNTERS’S ALERT and Nevada Hunters Association realized legislation was necessary to make changes. Nevada sportsmen were fed up with the corruption of NDOW director Willie Molini. The corruption was so bad that legislators saw fit to take the tag draw out of NDOW’s hands and place it in a private company’s hands to administer the tag draw.

TO: Private Hunting/Trapping is Inadequate

Wolf experts agree that the only place sport hunting and trapping might limit wolf numbers is on flat, fenced areas. Nothing like that exists in most Idaho wolf habitat so relying on sport hunters and trappers to take enough wolves to restore healthy densities defies logic.

HA: In Nevada, private hunting/trapping is inadequate.  NDOW biologists have set an objective harvest of 349 mountain lions a year. For the last seven years, less than half of that objective harvest set by NDOW biologists has been filled. To correct this imbalance, a bill will be proposed in the 2009 Legislative session to do some contract hunting to reach the objective harvest. Once again, NDOW will not do anything about this problem so sportsmen must legislate to make them do their job.

TO: An Important Message for All Americans

The Nature Conservancy/U.N./Wildlands Initiative goal to establish “Wildlands Core Areas” and connect them with “Wildlife Corridors” is being implemented in every state (see July-Sep 2007 Outdoorsman). CDC nongame employees in your state wildlife agency have already mapped these wildlife corridors and are working with other agencies to implement the plan with direction from TNC…Like many other states, Gov. Otter made his F&G Director a member of his staff and nongame activists in KDFG are now calling the shots. Wildlife management on public lands in Idaho now consists of token efforts to restore native plants, and selling extra hunting opportunity to pay for the CDC and nongame bureaucracy….In Idaho- 70% of the land is owned/controlled by government and the vast majority of hunters are finding very little game to harvest…CDC (Conservation Data Center) and the entire nongame insects and flowers agenda must be transferred back to Parks and Recreation where it will stop destroying Idaho’s Hunting Heritage. F&G officials must be forced to manage wildlife properly. If you believe it’s time for citizens to take back control of their government and their future, I urge you to give as many 1-year gift subscriptions as you can afford. Donating $25 to cover costs for one year will provide facts to one private citizen or public official of your choosing anywhere in the U.S. Please don’t put it off.

HA: The last statement says it all. Although it was meant for Idaho, it is a carbon copy of what has been going on in Nevada for decades. Send donations to: The Outdoorsman, P.O. Box 155, Horseshoe Bend, ID 83629 

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 April 2010 23:55
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