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Idaho Department of Fish and Game “Wildlife Summit” Creating Extreme Resentment From The State’s Sportsmen Groups

Two issues are now troubling the members of most all of Idaho’s sportsman organizations. One has been the extremely drastic loss of big game populations since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduction of non-native Canadian wolves into the Northern Rockies during the mid 1990s. The other involves the Idaho Department of Fish and Game sponsored “Wildlife Summit”, which is to be held at the Riverside Hotel in Boise August 24 thru 26 – and at six other satellite locations around the state.

The purpose of this so-called summit is to look at changing the “Mission” of IDFG. The agency wants to stray from their legislated mission, which by law is to concentrate on maintaining healthy populations of “Fish” and “Game”…just as the agency’s name implies. One major concern to many sportsmen and most sportsman organizations in the state is that major environmental and animal rights groups have been invited to attend and participate – and that several of the keynote guest speakers IDFG is bringing in for the summit have strong ties with those same groups.

Those hunters and anglers who have financially supported the state’s wildlife agency since it was first established back in 1938 see the writing on the wall – and that IDFG has changed, and not necessarily to better the agency. A vast and growing number of these sportsmen now feel that the agency no longer represents them, and has an all new agenda. Many have felt that way ever since IDFG worked so readily hand-in-hand with the USFWS introduction of a larger, more aggressive and wider ranging non-indigenous wolf subspecies – and then watched elk herds that took 60 to 70 years to rebuild disappear right before their eyes.

With that loss of elk and other big game herds, which USFWS had promised wouldn’t happen, has also been a dramatic drop in hunting license sales. That means less funding for IDFG. Now the agency is selling out the sportsmen who have been there to keep them operating for more than seven decades. As much as they try to camouflage what the “Wildlife Summit” is really all about, it simply boils down to the agency turning to the arch enemies of hunting and fishing for funding – groups like The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and dozens of others. IDFG now wants to work along with the same anti-hunting groups which fought so hard to keep wolf management tied up in federal court, until the wolves had enough time to destroy past decades of big game conservation. Now, the sportsmen of Idaho are angry, and it is very likely IDFG will feel their wrath.

In an attempt to justify the agency’s reason for changing IDFG’s mission, Director Virgil Moore has stated that it all pretty much boils down to not enough funding. He pointed out that, with a changing society and the economic down turn, federal assistance is beginning to wane. He predicted that within just a few years it would flat line, then disappear altogether.

He said, “We’ve been aware of this change for some time.”

Perhaps the change began when the U.S. Department of the Interior began its reign of terror on the state’s rights to manage wildlife within its border. The two primary tools they’ve used have been the grizzly bear and the gray wolf. Under the facade of restoring “endangered species”, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked with state wildlife agencies in both Idaho and Montana to relocate and transplant these two species into new territory, then the U.S. Forest Service would close access into those areas – shutting out sportsmen. Without proper management of these apex predators within those vast closed areas, big game populations have taken a beating. Federal “biologists and wildlife managers”, in official Environmental Impact Statements, emphatically asserted that the predator impact would be minimal and acceptable – far from the 70- to 80-percent loss of many big game herds that has become reality since 1995.

The residents of the Northern Rockies now fully realize they were outright lied to, and that the USFWS and IDFG both fully knew what the impact on wildlife resources would be before the release of the major predators. Now IDFG is looking to partner up with the same anti-hunting organizations which have fully supported the disaster of allowing wolf populations to explode, due to the lack of adequate management. Idaho’s sportsmen do not want those groups to have any say in the future of wildlife management in the state. They have already seen the damage their involvement causes.

Ever hear of the Delphi Technique? What it boils down to is manipulation of a consensus, whether it is a general consensus, a public consensus, or any other kind of consensus – after the outcome or direction the topic or issue will follow or take has already been determined by those conducting the consensus… meeting…or summit. It’s all based on bringing people together by inviting them to attend and “participate”. Then a very skilled facilitator and team of “experts” weave their spell, to oversell the benefits of being a part of the “team”, to instill the feeling among participants that they are in support of the issue or topic.

The technique was used back during the planning stages of the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project, to make the residents feel good about dumping Canadian wolves into the mix of big game populations that had taken decades to rebuild. The USFWS and IDFG, along with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks next door, used nothing more than smoke and mirrors, and outright false claims, predictions and forecasts to assure sportsmen and other residents that wolves would make big game populations stronger and healthier. In short, they were employing the Delphi Technique to bring a majority on board, even though it had already been predetermined that Canadian wolves would be transplanted into the area anyway. With major herds like the Northern Yellowstone elk herd torn down from 19,000 elk at the outset of the non-indigenous wolf introduction to only about 4,000 today, those sportsmen and residents realize they were sold a rotten bill of goods, that they have been victims of the grandest case of fraud ever perpetrated in the United States.

Is the IDFG “Wildlife Summit” a continuation of this fraud? All one has to do is look at the purpose of the summit, and that is to bring in non-hunting and non-fishing groups to decide the future of these outdoor sports in Idaho. Or to scrutinize several of the keynote speakers who are there to expound upon the benefits of forming what has been dubbed a new “Conservation Coalition”. Then the real purpose of the “Wildlife Summit” may become more clear.

One speaker, Toni Hardesty, is the former Director of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, who earlier this year became the Director of the Idaho chapter of The Nature Conservancy. That organization’s reputation has suffered greatly in recent years, due to the manner in which it has sold off lands that were either donated or sold to them at far less than market value, under the agreement that those lands would be preserved. While The Nature Conservancy claims to be a “land preservation” group, it continues to receive millions in government funds and uses tax dollars to forward its agenda of “nationalizing” private land in order to turn a very handsome profit. Now, Idaho’s sportsmen are asked to put trust in someone who heads the state chapter of that organization.

For another speaker, Tara Teel, being a career student has been a way of life. With a Ph.D. degree, an M.S. degree and a B.S. degree she is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. She has been involved in a tremendous amount of research the past few years. In fact, since 2005 Teel has headed research teams (2 or 3 researchers) for 13 different projects, receiving more than $1.2-million in grants, and during the same time period she was an associate researcher with four other research studies that received nearly $1-million more in grants to study things such as “Improving Conservation Education and Connecting Families to Nature through Programs Targeting the Wildlife Values of the Public”. That study alone received $286,147 in grant money.

One of her students had this to say about her, “Unfortunately, she acts patronizing and self-righteous to cover up her many shortcomings, including a lack of any real non-academic work experience. Unfortunately most of us don’t live in the theoretical world where she does. The Ivory Tower will certainly protect her from every-day life.”

Now Tara Teel will be telling Idaho sportsmen and residents why they should welcome environmental and animal rights groups to help manage the state’s wildlife resources. Interesting enough, her Colorado State University faculty profile shares that one of her greatest research interests is “attitude-behavior change theory in psychology” – which kind of goes hand-in-hand with the Delphi Technique of manipulating public consensus.

Idaho sportsmen groups are seriously questioning the legality of IDFG sponsoring the “Wildlife Summit”, and their intent to change the agency’s core mission – and from where did the money come to finance the summit. They are also asking whether or not sportsman dollars were used, and who authorized the summit.

Scott Rockholm, president and c.e.o. of Save Western Wildlife, headquartered at Sandpoint, ID, states that the mission of the state’s wildlife agency reads, “IDFG will manage wildlife for future populations of wildlife, for the purpose of fishing, hunting , and trapping.”

He also points out their mandate does not compel them to do anything but grow edible wildlife. He feels this summit is the beginning of the end to hunting. Like many Idaho sportsmen, Rockholm is both disappointed and disgusted with the manner in which IDFG has pulled the rug from beneath those who have funded the agency, and especially about how IDFG is now preparing to stab them in the back by jumping into bed with the same organizations and groups which have worked so hard to destroy the quality of hunting in Idaho.

He says, “The ‘Summit’ is a disguise to end your hunting opportunities. This is a sham, plain and simple.”

Before the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan and before ongoing legal intervention from pro-wolf environmental groups, Idaho was home to one of the healthiest big game populations in the United States. And those herds had been built relying on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which calls on hunter harvest to maintain a balance between game populations and quality habitat. Steve Alder, who heads the Clearwater Chapter of the statewide sportsman group Idaho for Wildlife says that IDFG has been moving away from that plan for almost 30 years – and that some IDFG biologists have long advocated non-hunting and non-consumptive practices of wildlife management – all the while using sportsman dollars.

Alder says a great example of that can be found in the agency’s 1991-1995 Elk Management Plan. It states, “The Department believes the greatest return to society from the wildlife resource occurs when the maximum variety of products is provided and that maximizing a single product (e.g., harvest) is not necessarily desirable. We will encourage and promote non-consumptive use of elk.”

While IDFG and environmental groups worked together to plan the “Wildlife Summit”, sportsmen and traditional sportsmen groups were left out in the dark. Recently replaced IDFG Commissioner Wayne Wright cautioned that this was a dangerous path – and that may prove far more true than anyone can imagine. It’s no wonder that the sportsmen of Idaho no longer put any trust in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game – and now likely have a whole new elevated level of animosity toward environmental groups.

The “Wildlife Summit” headquarters in Boise and the gatherings at the six satellite locations may see far more sportsman participation than IDFG or their new environmental partners expect. A large number of sportsmen are likely to show up at each location – not to participate, but in protest and to let Idaho Governor Butch Otter, IDFG Commission members and upper management at IDFG know that an extremely heated battle lies ahead. A number of Idaho legislators are expected to be on hand as well – some also in protest of how IDFG is violating its legislated mission. – Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH

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