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To what depths of despair will some people reach to fulfill an agenda? That question may have been answered for one Idaho man recently.
It was rapidly approaching my usual bedtime, when the telephone rang. On the other end was a man who wanted to share with me an experience he had just encountered that he described as both frightening and repulsive. He was obviously shaken.
Honored that he had sought me out as someone he felt he could trust, I listened intently as he told his story.
Because this man expressed that after hearing what he heard, he feared for his wife and family, himself and his job, he wanted to remain anonymous. I quizzed him further about the need to remain anonymous.
â€œThis is an emotional issue and Iâ€™m exposing the hidden agendas of two respected sportsmen. Itâ€™s just best to remain anonymous.â€
I will not reveal his identity for these reasons.
For the purposes of this story, letâ€™s give the caller the name of John.
John saw an advertisement in the Wild Idaho News about a meeting that was to be sponsored by the Idaho Wildlife Federation on April 21, 2007 at the Red Lion Hotel Downtowner in Boise, Idaho. He said the ad listed the meeting as â€œopen to the public and freeâ€.
Not being able to find any advertisement on the Wild Idaho News website, I visited the IWF website and pulled up a pdf file containing an ad for this event. Included with this was another ad announcing the annual banquet and fundraising event for the Idaho Wildlife Federation.
The banquet was scheduled for later in the evening with doors opening at 6:00 p.m. and dinner buffet at 7:00 p.m., the ad read.
The meeting that caught Johnâ€™s eye was one scheduled for 1:00 p.m. â€“ 3:00 p.m. Listed to be discussed on the agenda were three current issues: 1.) Snake River, 2). Canned Hunts, and 3.) TRAsH (Teach Responsibility & Save ïƒ¢ Heritage).
John decided he would drive to Boise and learn more about the canned hunting issue. He told me he went for information because he had heard that there might be a citizenâ€™s sponsored voter initiative in November 2008 and thought it a good opportunity to start learning more about the issue.
Arriving early for the meeting, John decided to sit in the restaurant and have a meal while he waited. He sat two tables away from a group of other men gathered around a table. He recognized one man as being Kent Marlor, president of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, whom he had met several years earlier.
John ordered his meal and within moments he saw a familiar face enter the restaurant. It was Don Clower, former commissioner of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He entered the restaurant and passed by John on his way to sit at the same table with Kent Marlor and others. John had also met Clower several years earlier when Clower was the spokesman against a citizen initiative that, if passed, would have ended most bear hunting methods in Idaho.
John couldnâ€™t help but overhear much of the conversation at the table, as there was little attempt to not be overheard. He later described the demeanor to me to be brazen and arrogant.
What follows are excerpts from that conversation. Any direct quotes from anyone at that table will be in quotations.
According to John, he heard Kent Marlor say that it would be hard to pass an initiative without positive tests for chronic wasting disease. John said he was unable to hear the resulting conversations and could only clearly state hearing, â€œone yearâ€ and â€œMontanaâ€ and â€œWyomingâ€. * The initiative being referred to by Mr. Marlor would be in reference to a citizen brought initiative that has been publicly debated as a possibility by both the Idaho Wildlife Federation and the Idaho Sportsmenâ€™s Caucus Advisory Council. *
The group discussed a Twin Falls Times-News editorial that had claimed the sportsmenâ€™s group (ISCAC) would be hurt if they accepted out of state money for the campaign on a citizenâ€™s initiative. Marlor expressed concern over how much money it would take to run the campaign. Don Clower replied, â€œI can get you the money, but you wonâ€™t like where it comes from.â€
To help put this in perspective, you have to understand that John had met Clower before and was familiar with the bear referendum Idaho faced back in 1996. That initiative would have ended bear hunting by all means except stalking. Clower was the lead spokesman against that initiative.
This is a quote Mr. Clower made on October 28, 1996 in the High Country News. â€œThe animal-rights people are imposing their values on the people of Idaho and the rest of the U.S.,” he warns. “Theyâ€™ll peck away at us, one little group at a time.”
Imagine the shock and amazement John was feeling hearing this coming from a man who just a decade earlier was avidly fighting for all hunters and trappers, chastising those wanting to impose their values on the citizens of Idaho.
Don Clower shared with the group that he had been turkey hunting in North Idaho over the past week and sportsmen there told him not to bring an initiative because it would divide hunters â€œright down the middleâ€.
At one point during the conversation, someone at the table used the word hunting while referencing game ranches where hunting is allowed in fenced in areas. Mr. Clower quickly corrected the person and said, â€œDonâ€™t call it hunting. Call it butchering.â€
Clower seemed to be the one dominating much of the conversation and at one point he made reference to the elk industry as â€œself regulatingâ€ and laughed at the term. He too pointed out that it would be difficult to win an initiative based on ethics alone. He said, â€œWhatâ€™s ethical to me may not be ethical to you.â€
The conversation turned to property rights and how it applies to the elk industry debate. Clower said that it would have to be proven that someone elseâ€™s private property rights were being put in jeopardy by elk farms in order to be successful at shooting down the property rights argument being used successfully by the Idaho elk ranchers. He asked the group if they knew who would vote for this initiative if they could convince the public that their property values are decreasing because of elk farming. â€œBoise,â€ was his reply.
They even discussed the elk that had escaped from Dr. Rex Rammellâ€™s ranch near Rexburg, Idaho last summer. Part of the debate that has been in full swing since then Gov. Jim Risch had several of Rammellâ€™s elk killed outside his ranch, has been about property rights. Rammell and others have argued that whether the elk got out of the enclosure or not, they still belong to the rancher.
The last part of the conversation that John heard before he decided to leave was when Don Clower told the group that what was needed to get support for passage of a citizenâ€™s initiative against the elk industry is, â€œa public health scareâ€. He said that people have to be worried about disease.
As you have just read, this is extremely damning and disturbing information. I asked John several follow-up questions. I asked him, why should people believe this story?
â€œI believe that some of the things I have shared can be proven accurate with further questioning and investigating.â€ John went on to exclaim loudly that he was willing to take a lie detector test and questioned whether or not those sitting at that table would.
There are two key indicators for me in concluding that John was being honest. The first is he has nothing to gain from this in any way. He went to a public meeting as an outdoor sportsman seeking information. Thatâ€™s all.
The second key was his prior opinion of the two gentlemen he is outing in this conversation. Hearing what he heard left him in a state of shock and confusion because he had quite a bit of respect for both Don Clower and Kent Marlor prior to this.
I also wanted to know from John why he was electing to come forward with this information?
â€œThe people of Idaho must know the truth. The gentlemen at this meeting want to put several families out of business by scaring the public into supporting an initiative. This is wrong on so many fronts.â€
I donâ€™t know who else sat at that table but I am determined to find out. I can tell you this. Two groups have publicly stated that they had discussed the possibility of a citizenâ€™s initiative against the Idaho elk industry with each other. One we have already spoken about and the other is the Idaho Sportsmenâ€™s Caucus Advisory Council. This group has actively lobbied and protested against the elk industry.
The burning question that now should be in everyoneâ€™s mind is how far will these individuals, some representing the interest of other people, go in order to achieve the goals of their own agendas?
I have talked at great length with many people about this event. I have no axe to grind with any of these people. Writing this kind of story goes beyond my usual journalistic endeavors. I find no pleasure in exposing people for such things but this is different.
I personally find this revolting. I find it abhorrent that individuals, Americans, would entertain such thoughts, say nothing about carrying them out.
As has always been the message of the articles I write, we need to search for the truth. The only ones that get hurt when truth is examined thoroughly are the liars and purveyors of misinformation, deceit and fear mongering.
The good citizens of Idaho have to be made aware of the fact that those behind a movement to run lawful elk ranchers, good families with children and real people out of business are doing so by lying.
What are the people of Idaho and America to think of people who would sit in a public place and be so brazen as to discuss acts of terrorism for the sole purpose of political agendas? Can we now only assume that everything that has come from these two individuals and the groups they represent, been lies?
I made several attempts to talk with both Mr. Clower and Mr. Marlor. Clower responded to only one email saying â€œI don’t answer e-mails from people I don’t know.â€
Mr. Marlor was kind enough to respond to my last email saying he had been out of town. I called him and we talked for perhaps 5 or 10 minutes. Marlor acknowledged being at the Red Lion Restaurant in Boise on April the 21. He said there were several meetings that took place in that restaurant that day and couldnâ€™t remember what meeting specifically I was referring to.
I asked him directly if he said, â€œit would be hard to pass an initiative without positive tests for chronic wasting diseaseâ€. He denied having said that and that he would never say anything like that. He explained to me the process by which chronic wasting disease is tested, saying that it would be impossible to find any cases of chronic wasting disease because the only testing that can be done is on the brain of a dead animal.
When I quizzed Mr. Marlor about a statement that Don Clower made that he could get the money for an initiative and that they wouldnâ€™t like where it came from, all I got for a response was that no decision has been made on an initiative. He was quite emphatic in stating that no decision has been made. He did not acknowledge nor deny Clowerâ€™s statement.
Marlor said he thought that probably there were members of the Idaho Sportsmenâ€™s Caucus Advisory Council present at the afternoon meeting (1p.m. â€“ 3p.m.). He didnâ€™t know if any representatives of ISCAC were present at this restaurant meeting. He again stated there were several informal meetings that went on that day.
I asked Mr. Marlor if there was anyone at any of the meetings that day from Idaho Fish and Game. He said no and cautioned me not to get Idaho Fish and Game mixed up in the discussion about an initiative.