A guest blog by Barry Coe –
Having been born and raised in Idaho and as a lifelong sportsman of this state, I have had many issues with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) over the years. I have witnessed their actions on several issues that have directly lead to diminished fish and wildlife, and diminished sporting opportunities. In attempting to be involved and to protect our culture and interests, I have had one very consistent attitude and response from the agency that has become very proficient at taking whatever position they seem to think will best further their own agenda. That attitude is pure and raw contempt. And no other issue has exposed and proven this contempt more than the Canadian wolf introduction has.
IDFG has attempted to take the ‘we hold no blame’ position concerning wolves in this state. I feel it has been well proven that they, in fact, hold a large percentage of blame. A prior director actually wrote support letters to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and drafted an illegal permit that allowed the Canadian wolves to be dumped into this state in a blaring contempt for Idaho state code. It was so contemptuous that the Idaho state legislature actually reacted to the action, although they failed to implement accountability. Yet those were the days before the Internet and the ability to transfer information quickly and thoroughly throughout the population. Those were the days of running under the radar and outright collusion between state and federal agencies. There is little doubt in my mind, and I suspect anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of this issue would agree, that outright collusion between IDFG and the USFWS did, and continue, to take place. Wolves, grizzly bears, soon to be wolverines and all other claimed endangered species are a vast source of federal dollars and we all know, IDFG loves nothing like they love the federal dollar.
In a recent article, Jim (salt shaker) Hayden (IDFG Panhandle Regional Wildlife Manager) made yet another revealing comment. In this interview “Salt Shaker” Hayden seemed surprised that about 50% of the wolves harvested in this current wolf season have come from areas that IDFG didn’t even know contained wolves. Now, on the surface this comment may seem unimportant, yet when one considers the past 16 years, it’s importance is almost undefinable.
I have to ask this question of Mr. Hayden. Just exactly how can you manage a declining elk population when you obviously have no concept of the level of predation impacting those elk?
For years IDFG took the politically correct avenue of clinging onto the obviously and intentionally low official numbers of wolves. As hunters and outdoorsmen screamed from the rafters that those numbers were so far off it was incredible, IDFG turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. After all, the federal bucks were rolling in and the hunters were still buying licenses and tags. All was well and good at IDFG. Biologists were being hired (most directly out of the wolf introduction program) and the rumblings were contained to a small population of people who never knew how to get the truth out, especially in the face of IDFG and green eco-groups. The old tactic of ignoring and marginalizing was rolling along just fine.
It was only in the last year or two that IDFG was forced to admit that, ‘well, golly, okay, so our wolf population is around 1000 wolves’. Again the sportsmen and sportswomen of Idaho claimed that number was also an intentional down playing of the actual number of wolves in Idaho. As we witnessed the great elk herds disappear from first hand observation, IDFG still clung to the deceit that all was fine. They twisted a few numbers here, changed a few “objectives” there, rewrote a few algorithms, adjusted some seasons and continued to play both sides of the fence. After all, this has always been the status quo for this department. The level of contempt IDFG obviously has for anyone outside of the department or the federal system is amazingly apparent.
Wolf math just is not that hard. They breed like rabbits, yet have no predators. The lie just became too hard to cover up anymore and so, the science changed – I use science here with my tongue stuffed soundly into my cheek. For a decade we had manipulated science stuffed down our throats that exonerated their revenue generating wolves from any cause of any problem we were experiencing anywhere in the state they inhabited. When it became obvious that the truth was coming out, and that delisting was imminent, in spite of the department’s best efforts to keep them listed, and even drafting and submitting an illegal wolf management plan, they decided to flip over. In typical IDFG fashion, the wolves were now the cause of it all! Boy, aren’t we happy that they finally have seen the light! After all we have been telling them this for 10 years.
But, they now face a wiser and more connected sportspeople. We’re not buying it and they know it. We are now very informed and politically connected; we have communication outlets and media connections. But again, in true IDFG fashion, they have decided to try another avenue to generate their revenue. They want nothing worse than to have the hunters of this state out of the equation. We no longer forget past actions or play in the manner they want us to, paying more for less. They now turn to the tactic of pandering and collusion.
In what seems on the surface to be a politically correct action of seeking information concerning wildlife management in the state of Idaho, they have committed a few obvious mistakes that exposed their true intention. Their highly publicized ‘Summit’ was rolled out as that meeting. Conducted DURING hunting season, and with invitations extended to several anti-hunting, eco-green groups, and a group of actual past and present IDFG employees, IDFG now wants input on wildlife management. And, they want that input from everyone that doesn’t pay for it or expect the department to do anything other than perpetuate predators and sustain their job at all costs.
Rumor has it that this little summit has caused a rift in the ranks. It seems to have been generated right from the new director Virgil Moore; or at least that is where all the fingers are pointing. It seems that this long-time employee of IDFG, and new director, is attempting to return to the status quo of ignore and move forward. Instead of moving in the direction of attempting to get out from under the wolf issue, he now seems to want to change gears and get back in bed with the green, wildlands agenda, and he wants their money. Public input on management? How quaint! If only it didn’t reek of corruption, contempt and collusion. If, in fact, this is the brain child of Mr. Moore, he just flatly needs to go; it is far past time to get a director that is not a long time member of the IDFG’s good old boys club. We have flatly had enough! I suspect if our legislature is not willing to overhaul this department, the time has come to turn to the citizen and the ballot box. We have one very powerful tool at our disposal; initiatives, which are binding if passed and can be used to circumvent a lack of appropriate action by those in government. They do have the ability to change this department in ways that will both form the department in a manner the citizens of Idaho want and to also bring accountability to this long-time rogue department. The good old boys club must be dismantled.
Actual wolf numbers? Let’s return to Jim “Salt Shaker” Hayden for a few moments. I have heard sportsmen and women, who spend an immense amount of time in the outdoors, claim the wolf numbers in Idaho are at least double what IDFG claims. It now seems “Salt Shaker” Hayden has validated those claims. And in that claim, his statement speaks volumes. It is very sad that a department that is charged with the management of Idaho’s wildlife have failed so miserably, and stayed the course of ignoring sportspeople to the extent they have. There are but a few explanations for this miserable failure: Corruption, Collusion or outright incompetence. I will leave it to you to decide which it is or how much longer you are going to stand for it.
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