All Idahoans should shoulder costs of wildlife

Idaho Mountain Express says hunters and fishermen need to help in paying the expenses-

This editorial certainly makes sense to me. However, I think we will find opposition to this plan from two interesting forces — wildlife watchers and hunters.  The first is easiest to explain. An unknown number, but probably quite a few watchers, will want to watch without paying (the classic case of freeloading).  Some interest groups that say the represent hunters will oppose it because if watchers pay, they will have more of a say.

I expect the livestock interests will oppose it too because many of them fear the results of having more money for wildlife.  Still, I hope a majority can be built.

Idaho Mountains Express, “Our View: All Idahoans should shoulder costs of wildlife.”

Added. Conservation permit killed in House. By Dusti Hurst. Idaho Reporter. While opponents billed it as a new tax on families and children who want to enjoy Idaho’s great outdoors (how sweet of them!), the fact that Rep. Lenore Barrett of Challis led the charge against it suggests that’s not how the most anti-conservation members really saw it.  As I suggested, however, there was also opposition from those who probably think that wildlife watching should inherently be free even though the area was created to enhance wildlife (such as Democrat James Ruchti of Pocatello)





  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    I certainly wouldn’t have an issue with contributing but only if the mission statement of the IDFG is changed.

    “All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.”

    At minimum, there should be changes to the statement which at least value non-consumptive use and ecological functions of various wildlife.

    1. Jon Way Avatar

      Ken, I fully agree with your comments but think that state agencies are petrified of sharing the resource with all users of wildlife b.c most are so pro-hunting they can’t see beyond that.

      After all: an animal can be observed for its lifetime, but it can only be shot and killed once.

  2. Maska Avatar

    It’s interesting to me that one of the very first comments on this article claims it is a ruse to empower wildlife watchers to put a stop to all hunting. This stikes me as nonsense. I know dozens of avid birders and wildlife watchers and very few are opposed to ethical hunting. In fact, some of these people do both: hunt and/or fish and also watch and photograph wildlife. It’s clear, however, that this argument will be used by some people to bring political pressure to bear to throw a monkeywrench into a good idea.

    By the way, my spouse and I earmark a sizeable chunk of our state tax refund each year to our state’s Share with Wildlife program. We definitely would like to have a little more influence on wildlife policy, but only in terms of more attention to non-game species, which they sometimes lack in comparison with game animals, birds, and fish.

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I have had conversations with the higher ups in the IDFG and they agree that wildlife watchers and photographers should help fund the department. They are very aware that wildlife watchers and photographers out number and out spend hunters in Idaho and in other western states.
    At the IDFG commission meeting last week in Boise, the Outfitters and Guides were all griping after the meeting about the pro-wolf comments. I heard several of them say that you should have to put your hunting license number on your comment sheet. They have to realize that times are changing and that their influence on wildlife matters in Idaho is diminishing.

    1. Jay Barr Avatar
      Jay Barr

      It’s hard for those who have been entrenched for so long to even think about giving up the gavel. But you’re right- times are changing (albeit at a glacial pace it seems) and I think there is a huge pocketbook for IDFG to tap into and a public willing to hand over a relatively nominal charge to “use” the wildife resource. Who wouldn’t want several million more dollars in their operating budget? If there was serious consideration of this there most definitely would have to be a change in the mission (not just the mission statement) and hopefully the agency’s name; from ID Fish & Game to ID Fish and Wildlife. And while we’re at it, let’s disband the Commission and come up with an innovative decision-making structure.

  4. JimT Avatar

    This is exactly what I was challenging Layton about another thread…I totally agree that the general tax paying public should help shoulder the burden of maintaining the incredible landscape that is the West. But, when and if that happens, the Fish and Game agencies cease to be handmaidens to the fee paying polity that has held power for so long. And this is not unique to the West; I have commented before on the eastern states reliance on fees, and the reluctance of those folks to involve other financial support since it would mean managing the state resources for more than hunting and fishing.

    Hard for me to accept that the vested interests, recognizing that the state fish and game agencies are traditionally strapped for funds, would fight against an infusion of cash….IF they truly believed in managing the wild resources for the benefit of all, including the wild inhabitants.

  5. mikepost Avatar

    This gets us back to prior discussions about the Pitman-Robertson Act which taxes the hook & bullet crowd. In the first 9 months of 2008 this amounted to $240,541,414 nation wide with Idaho recieving $4,588,309 of that money for wildlife projects (USFWS data). Other wildlife users should be supporting a similar tax on equipment and supplies used for birding, hiking, watching, etc like optics, boots, tents, etc. and join the club on an equal footing with comensurate political/finacial clout. The hook & bullet folks have been generating this kind of money for over 7 decades and rightly or wrongly, but understandably, think they have carried the ball for the rest of the population so far.

    1. Jon Way Avatar

      You are absolutely right Mike Post,
      there should be a tax on binocs, etc… And when that happens Env Groups/Animal Welfare groups etc should have their collective seats on state game and fish commissions… In order to go both ways, both need to happen (equal funding and equal representation)

    2. JB Avatar

      Just to be clear the P-R Act taxes the bullet crowd, the Dingell-Johnson Act taxes the hook crowd.

      I agree that a similar excise tax on non-consumptive equipment is long overdue. Bird feeders and bird food strike me as more relevant than boots and tents, which are used for many things that have nothing to do with wildlife.

    3. Carl Avatar

      About 14-15 years ago there was a big push by several groups and state agencies to put a tax on optics, bird houses, feeders, bird seed, tents, backpacks, boots, mountain bikes etc,. In 1996 Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of Interior, proposed the excise tax on outdoor recreation products. Funds generated were to be used for non-game, outdoor education and recreation. It was called “Teaming with Wildlife”. The program would have generated an estimated $350 million annually for non-game programs. The proposal was supported by well over 600 big and small conservation groups including wildlife watchers and hunters. Opposition came from the outdoor products industry that claimed most outdoor products don’t ever get used outdoors. Examples were most backpacks are used by school children and less than 15 percent of hiking boots are used for hiking. Opposition came from mountain bike, some hiking, rock climbing, and camping groups who opposed having to pay for wildlife they said they didn’t watch. Some of the companies who produce wild bird seed spoke out against it as did some people who feed birds. I was quite surprised to see the oppostion to it in letters to the editor. At the time I tried to get two local wildlife organizations as well as a local outdoor recreation group to support and endorse the program. All three decided to stay neutral because of opposition from members. Two local chapters of the Wild Turkey Federation, a chapter of the Sierra Club, and a chapter of Ducks Unlimited did support and openly endorsed the Teaming with Wildlife proposal. The Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America strongly opposed it, saying it was a hidden tax and not a user fee.
      Unfortunatrly the proposal failed in congress.
      As an individual who worked at trying to inform others and get support for this iniative I was greatly disappointed. Any proposal to place an excise tax on outdoor products in the future will have to greatly narrow the proposed items that would be considered for a user tax if it is to be succesful.

  6. Alan Gregory Avatar

    In Missouri, everyone helps pay for fish and wildlife conservation through the sales tax they pay – one-eighth of every cent goes toward conservation and protection of habitat. So, unlike here in Pa. where only those who buy a hunting or fishing license fund the work of two separate fish and wildlife agencies, all Missourians are helping to fund the work of their state’s one and only conservation agency. There are a couple of other examples. Columnist Ted Williams focused on this widespread funding gap ina recent piece for Audubon magazine.

    1. Carl Avatar

      Arkansas and Minnesota have a tax like Missouri. Minnesota passed theirs in 2008 so they are just starting to see the benefits, Missouri and Arkansas have benefitted from it for years. Iowa will vote on a one-eight sales tax this next fall that will benefit wildlife. All of these programs are set for benefitting habitat of game and non-game. In Minnesota the program also supports the arts and watersheds. In both Arkansas and Minnesota the effort was lead by hunting groups who were able to quickly get the support of anglers and birders to get the iniative to pass. Lets hope Iowa is also successful this program.

    2. JimT Avatar

      Common sense, equity-based approach in both states. Congratulations on looking to the future for lands and resource management and preservation.

  7. JimT Avatar

    That is the problem with taking the sales tax or fee get into the game of whose ox gets gored, what lobbying groups yell the loudest, etc. Make it a general tax..everyone pays their fair share, regardless of degree of use, or what boots you buy, or what backpack you use and how often. Fairest way to do it, and I think it is an inherent, civic duty of all citizens in a state. Whining bird watchers, or photographers annoy me just as much as the hook and bullet rank and file who seem to think state lands are their private reserves because they got screwed into being the main revenue source. Spread the burden, and it won’t be all that much per person, and the fish and game department programs would be much healthier for it.

  8. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Pouring a new source of revenue into the pockets of the likes of Cal Groen and the IDFG Commission is a mistake. The money would be co-opted before it hit the ground, much as federal dollars already appropriated via us all are co-opted by BLM & FS under the guise of “conservation projects” (i.e. gutting springs to develope water sources to distribute livestock, wildlife killing fencing. non-native seeding & mass herbicide application to externalize the cost of cleanup of bio-pollutants ~ weeds ~ that result from livestock production on public lands).

    You really want to give more money to this crooked and captured system of wildlife management such that they can use their discretion as to its expenditure ? Is it wise to ignore the hyper-politicized state of wildlife management ?

    That’s putting fuel on the fire.

    We’ve got a political problem. We’re dealing with empowered ideologues (see: Wayne Wright’s comment about God bestowing him the responsibility to MANage wildlife ~ i.e. Kill wolves ~ in Hailey the other year) – NOT rational practitioners of a prudent application/preservation of the public trust/interest.

    Dumping money onto this problem for a seat at the table with the powers that be is like a peacenik cutting a $50 Billion check to the Pentagon and asking “please”.

    1. JimT Avatar

      Brian, I think it is a two pronged political problem. Money talks. And as long as state fish and game agencies are funded mainly by hunters, fishermen, and outfitters fees and taxes, it is going to be mighty hard to get those folks to listen to others who want a more balanced approach to the lands of any state, not just here in the West. But, you raise a valid point as well. They will likely act as the socialist ranchers do…(what the hell, if it is good enough for the Tea Party, that icon of reason, I can use the term here…LOL) with the Defenders money…take the check, cash it, and then call every one they know to laugh about it, and do everything they can to manufacture reasons why the wolves should only be in defacto zoos, or shot on sight.

      Not sure what you do about the zealots who mix the Bible, myth, and corrupted reasoning and hold office. Maybe you mimic Palin, and put out a list to target, complete with gun sights. How quickly do you think the Far Right would scream if some pinko enviro, latte-sipping group did something like that? ;*)

      As a movement, maybe you pick the more reasonable states with more balance at the State House…like Colorado…and try this approach. I know for a fact that the so called liberals in Boulder and Denver would support an equal burden funding approach…they love the lands and use them, or if they don’t use them, realize how lucky we are to look out and see the Rockies in the distance every single day. Now, that is a gift that keeps on giving.

      Gorgeous day here…sunny, blue skies, and white mountains. Birds returning, birds passing through on their way north…

    2. Jon Way Avatar

      I think if something like that passes it needs to have federally mandated required changes. First to come to mind, mandatory changes of state fish and game commissions to ensure equal representation. There needs to be a list of changes or states don’t get said funds, and there should be multiple input in this process from all user groups from hunters to animal rights folks. To not do this would violate public trust doctrines which have been abused with current wildlife mgmt.

    3. JB Avatar

      A few points:

      First, wildlife watchers are often excluded from the table, because agencies have no incentive to listen to them. An excise tax on bird seed and birding equipment would help to remedy this. Remember, political “capture” exists because the agency’s are responding to paying “customers”.

      Second, it is important to know what P-R and D-J funds are used for. The law sets aside these funds for research and restoration projects to be used for sport fishing and wildlife management. Presumably any excise tax on “non-consumptive” wildlife-related products would mandate that funds be used for research and habitat restoration for non-game species.

      Finally, recognize that wildlife management is also in the process of changing from the inside, as the proportion of students with interests outside of traditional hunting and fishing has dramatically increased in recent years.

    4. JimT Avatar

      Jon, I am not sure I see why there would have to be a federal mandate for a state general tax to be directed for a specific purpose.

    5. Jon Way Avatar

      I am referring to changes to the level of diversifying state wildlife depts constituents. In other words, we all know about the inequity that makes up most state wildlife commissions – highlighted recently on Ralph’s blog with Idaho. If wildlife watching funds are to be put into wildlife mgmt there should be a requirement that they have a voice in wildlife mgmt. If not, I see no change occurring within wildlife depts.

    6. JimT Avatar


      Understand and agree.

  9. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    “All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho.”

    Doesn’t Idaho really mean all wild mammals not animals? If not aren’t they responsible for insect damage? Do they monitor insect hunters?

    I couldn’t find the laws for Oregon but it seems to me that a chickadee, for example, should not be the property of the state. Justice Oliver Holmes, in a ruling related to the Lacey Act, indicated that wild birds were not the possession of anyone.

    If a land owner has habitat that supports song birds, for instance, and feeds them on his property it doesn’t seem fair to tax the feed he buys for that activity.

    I like Jim T’s suggestion.

  10. DB Avatar

    Brian’s point is well taken. But what if there was a P-R or D-J type tax on all outdoor sports equipment that was returned to the states for the exclusive support of watchable wildlife programs for both game and non-game species? Then it would be a matter of law rather than discretion on how agencies adminster such funds. Our job would be to monitor rather than plead to assure that wildlife be managed to some degree for non consumptive uses.

  11. JimT Avatar

    Certainly a dedicated purpose phrase in any law would be helpful to prevent raiding for other purposes, as has traditionally happened at the Federal level with the Conservation fund.

  12. mikepost Avatar

    Even P-R funding system is not perfect. I currently help run a foundation that was formed because even though $13,000,000 in P-R funds were available to purchase a critical 30,000 acre property as an ecological reserve, no P-R funds can be used to fund on-going management of the land. We get a tid bit from licence generated revenue and raise the rest. Our biggest donors are hunter based conservation organizations even though we are heavily used by birders, native plant folks, equestrians and universities (grad student biology projects). Needless to say, we listen to our donors….

  13. jimbob Avatar

    While I agree that wildlife watchers, hikers, picnickers (sp?) and others should help shoulder costs, they should all have a bigger voice in wildlife affairs then, too. The thing I don’t understand is when the supposed “party of less government and taxes” (Republicans) is constantly charging us and requiring a license for this, permit for that, tax for this—-especially this example: a permit for picnicking? GEESH!!! Why not require a license for breathing? You know, with our politicians, the only individuals gaining any freedoms are BIG BUSINESS. I’ve noticed a huge drop in our personal freedoms in the last 10 years. A permit for picnicking!!!!!!??????!!!!!!

    1. Save Bears Avatar
      Save Bears

      A good number of states have some sort of permit or fee for using facilities, I know in Montana, there is a fee on your lic plate, in addition to a conservation stamp you have to buy with your hunting and fishing lic, in Washington they have a permit you have to purchase just for parking in the woods similar to a snow park permit, Oregon requires you to purchase permits for various outdoors activities. So it is really not that unusual..

  14. jimbob Avatar

    Not that it is unusual—-the problem is people accepting this crap. The government should not have the right to charge us for going into the forest—–Even the federal government starts building facilities, then charges us to use them (no matter whether we wanted them or not) Ironically, when they charge us to use the forest it is to justify not giving the forest over to BIG Business, who would then ruin and extract resources. So basically, we are paying to NOT ruin the forest. Interesting.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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