Idaho Statesman: How to get wildlife watchers to pay?

Here is an editorial from the Idaho Statesman on the failure of license fees and game tags to generate enough revenue to manage fish and wildlife in Idaho, especially with the coming cuts in federal aid. Brian Ertz earlier posted a related article and there has already been quite a bit of discussion in this forum. This so important, more discussion is needed, IMO.

Unfortunately, it is probably impossible to get those who do not “take” an animal to pay (except by voluntary donation). There may be limited exceptions to this.

My view is that general tax revenues are needed as a supplement, but Republican party elites have become the no tax, no way, for any purpose-party. So the sad truth is that money to manage public wildlife is going to be far short, at least in the short term. Of course the present-day Republican Party leaders, most of whom are very wealthy (so are most Democratic leaders) would hardly mind if wildlife was privatized, so that only men and women of the “proper” social class get to watch, shoot, bait, hook, or whatever.






  1. Mike Avatar

    Wildlife watchers don’t need to pay because their activity is low impact.

    What “managers” need to do is leave wildlife alone. If an animal needs to be reintroduced, they could easily meet costs demands via donations.

    Almost all of the cost of wildlife managent is incurred by white guys in pickups and ATV’s killing things.

    This article is nothing more than an attempt by the kill-crowd to claim that they should have the ultimate voice over wildlife decisions.

  2. Elk275 Avatar

    Raise the fee for resident hunting licenses, it is as simple as that. Non resident fees are high enough already. I am tried of resident hunters bitching about the cost of licenses fees and then spending several hundred dollars on gas for a weekend of hunting. Be there and done it, last year I spend $200 for fuel hunting antelope in Eastern Montana. If one wants to play then one must pay.

    Those that bitch the loudest always seem to have the best ATV’s, trucks, snowmobiles etc.

    1. Craig Avatar

      I’d pay another 10 or 20 bucks more each for a Elk,Deer tag and Hunting and Fishing license and add another 50 for Draw tags. I never understood why they were so low anyway. I buy the Sportsmans package but never hunt Bear or Cougar.Heres the costs and you can see they are pretty cheap.

      Idaho Residency Requirements
      Hunting $12.75
      Fishing $25.75
      Hunting And Fishing Combination $33.50
      Sportsman Package * $117.25
      Senior Combination Hunting And Fishing (65 years +) ** $11.75
      Military Furlough Combination *** $17.50
      Military Furlough Fishing *** $17.50
      Daily Fishing — 1st Day $11.50
      Daily Fishing — Each Consecutive Day $5.00
      Youth Resident Licenses
      Junior Hunting (12-17 years) $7.25
      Junior Fishing (14-17 years) $13.75
      Junior Combination Hunting And Fishing $17.50
      Youth Small Game Hunting (10-11 years) $7.25

      1. Elk275 Avatar

        In Sun Valley a lift ticket is $83 for 7 hours of skiing. A Sportman’s package is $117.25 what a deal. A ticket to see Boise State play a home game ??????????????. Hunting and fishing licenses are a bargin

        1. Dude, the bagman Avatar
          Dude, the bagman

          I would also pay more for my Idaho fishing license. I buy a non-resident Montana license every year anyway, and don’t even fish there all that much. I spend far more money on the gas getting there, lures, line, beer, etc.

          My only concern is that added cost might bring an added sense of entitlement to a lot of users.

          But you’re right about “Those that bitch the loudest always seem to have the best ATV’s, trucks, snowmobiles etc.” It’s hilarious how that works.

    2. JB Avatar

      Well put, elk. I was looking at fletching kits the other day and they ranged from $16 to over $40. When you spend more on a part of your arrow than you spend on your license to hunt, something is wrong.

      State F&G agencies reluctance to increase fees is, in part, due to their desire NOT to lose hunters; in particular, they are concerned with creating another barrier to recruiting new hunters. Paying an extra $20 to hunt is nothing to you or me, but it could be a substantial deterrent to younger hunters who, on average, will have less money to spend.

      You also have to understand that the people who are ultimately responsible for raising the fees are political appointees (i.e., state F&G commissioners) who are worried about catching Hell from the people who appointed them should hunters or anglers raise a stink about increased fees.

      Personally, I’m of two minds about fee increases. I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask hunters and anglers to pay a fee consistent with other types of recreation (9 holes of golf costs more than a hunting, trapping or fishing license in my state). However, I don’t like the pay-to-play model. In reality, we ALL benefit from wildlife, whether we harvest game, catch and release fish, or simply enjoy seeing/photographing them.

      – – – –

      Those suggesting we don’t need F&G agencies or that wildlife will somehow take care of itself sans management simply do not understand the realities of what agencies do. In addition to law enforcement, agencies typically staff managers who may be responsible for species, types of habitat, or lands of a certain designation (e.g., state wildlife areas) depending upon the state. They also staff scientists who spend a lot of time trying to estimate populations and determine factors that promote or inhibit population growth.

      Moreover, wildlife management agencies have been hurting for funding for a long while. My M.S. advisor wrote a paper in 1995 that covers the very topic so many here have brought up–he advocated increasing hunting fees substantially to pay for wildlife conservation and management. When I started at Utah State (9 years ago) there were already several “open” positions at the DWR which were not filled because of limited resources.

      In reality, we’re asking more and more of state agencies (e.g., provide more habitat, do a better job monitoring endangered species, provide more game, provide better enforcement etc.) and giving them fewer and fewer resources to do this work. So it strikes me as terribly ironic that the same people that bitch about how little agencies do for them advocate for further reducing their staff and/or budgets.

  3. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Ralph, I agree with you that if the funding situation is so dire, general funds should be used. This is the public’s resource, after all. The more license and tag fees are raised, the more claim to ownership and lopsided management the hunting community will demand…

  4. wolfsong Avatar

    Ok, consider this… The Nevada Wildlife Commission has decided that there will be a Black Bear hunt in Nevada. There are approx. 200-300 bears in the State. The Commission has stated ” It’s not for the revenue, not for a nuisance problem, it’s because we CAN.” They are strictly catering to a small group of TROPHY hunters who asked for a hunt. A Citizens group has filed suit and is in the process of collecting petitions. The Commission refuses to allow them to speak in a meeting against the hunt.

    I pay $25 a year per ATV for the right to use state and national forest trails, no complaints. The money is SUPPOSE to go for trail maintenance – NOT happening.

    I personally would have no problem paying a small yearly fee IF it gave me an equal voice with management. But that isn’t going to happen, the make up of most game commissions is set in favor of the ranching, farming, and hunting industries. Until the makeup of the commissions and the mindset that “Wildlife Watchers” are not important changes, we still have no imput on what happens, no matter how much we shell out.

    1. Jon Way Avatar

      Amen, to your last paragraph. This is the case nationwide, not just out west…

  5. jdubya Avatar

    This is the problem: “Licenses and tags provide the bread-and-butter funding source for an agency that doesn’t receive a dime of general fund tax money. As license and tag sales go, so goes Fish and Game’s funding.”

    What a simple solution: have the license fees go into the state coffers to vanish into the general funds bank account. Meanwhile fund Fish and Game with state general fund money based upon the mission of the department to ALL of the citizens of the state. There should be NO rule equating license fees with money spent by Fish and Game.

    If I was king, that is the way I would do it.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      ++What a simple solution: have the license fees go into the state coffers to vanish into the general funds bank account.++

      It can not be done. The Robinson Pittman act does not allow hunting and fishing license fees going into the state’s general fund.

      ++If I was king, that is the way I would do it.++

      If I was king, well, you would not want to know the way I would do it.

      1. Alan Avatar

        “It can not be done. The Robinson Pittman act does not allow hunting and fishing license fees going into the state’s general fund.”……Well, that could always be changed with an amendment added to a must pass budget bill, couldn’t it? 🙂

  6. JimT Avatar

    I have said this before…general tax rate could be increased by a penny or two for EVERYONE in the state, and dedicated to the maintenance, enhancement and preservation of the state lands. No one should get a free ride, and you would add enough funds with minimal impact to help the budgets. Would love to see someone from Idaho run the numbers and see what the cost would be..and the benefit. I mean, conservatives are always moaning about cost benefit analyses…why not here?

    The rub? General public gets a significant voice in policies, regulatory proposals and actions by the agencies, not just hunters and fishermen. I am betting the traditional powers that be would not go for it and would rather make this a landed gentry kind of thing as Ralph suggests…the rest of the environment could go to hell so long as there were enough elk and deer to kill…

    1. Tom Page Avatar
      Tom Page

      Jim –

      State land management is a different issue than wildlife management. Although some western states are getting more creative in accepting conservation uses on state lands, I don’t know if a general penny tax is the best way to go to increase management flexibility on these parcels. The trust mandate should be enough, provided conservation users are willing to pay for it. This argument, after all, was one of the founding cases for WWP many years ago here in Idaho. It’s only now, more than ten years later, that the mechanics of conservation uses are finally being developed here.

      There’s a recent article in High Country News highlighting efforts in Washington State to develop a way to pay for conservation management on state lands. The article also provides some thumbnail sketches for a few other western states.

      Wildlife management is a much more difficult nut to crack than habitat management, and even more so in this modern era. My personal feeling is that the concerns about privatization of wildlife and the landed gentry taking it all, while valid, are somewhat overblown. I just don’t see it happening on the ground. The reluctance to give landowners any stewardship responsibilities (and corresponding privileges) will continue to make this situation worse, not better. There’s some here that will trash me for saying that, of course.

      1. JimT Avatar

        Explain to me, scientifically, why state habitat management should be a separate issue from lands management, Tom. I don’t think anyone can make a case for it on that basis. So, once again, we are back to political and cultural traditions that have been shown to be too myopic to constitute a sound, ecologically based system. The tax increase is a no brainer from an economic standpoint…spread the “pain” to a large part of the population that traditionally has not been “encouraged”, shall we say, to think they too have a duty to play in role in maintaining the health of the lands…and their inhabitants. I would gladly pay a fee of 50 bucks or more to the state each April IF the state demonstrated it was not held hostage by the traditional groups of fisherman and hunters.

        As far as the trust mandate theory, yes it should be enough, but legally, politically…it never has been and I doubt with the courts trending in the directions they have the past two decades on the won’t be in the future. I believe that the public trust theory extension to climate change, while supportable from a scientific standpoint, was soundly rejected recently. I do believe there is a Oregon law professor who write extensively on the public trust cases, but her name escapes me at 230AM…VBG…Insomnia is an evil thing..

        1. Tom Page Avatar
          Tom Page

          Jim –

          It doesn’t have a thing to do with science. It has to do with the enabling legislation for state lands. Some states, such as Colorado via Amendment 16 in 1996, have been able to change their statutes to allow for long-term conservation-minded stewardship on a percentage of state-owned lands. Idaho finally recognized conservation as a legitimate use of state lands in 2010, but it took a long time to get there.

          It isn’t technically a cultural thing, but there certainly is a long history of state lands being managed solely for livestock grazing. Lately, there has been a big move towards oil & gas leasing, and other non-grazing uses, including conservation. Attitudes towards conservation on state lands are changing in places (see earlier reference to HCN article), even here in Idaho.

          Practically speaking, the scattered nature of most state holdings will make intensive conservation management difficult and very expensive to staff. The best candidate parcels for conservation management will be those few relatively large holdings with good ecological values near other high quality habitat.

          It’s worth noting that most state sections within the Frank Church Wilderness were traded out at the time of passage, I believe.

  7. ma'iingan Avatar

    “Licenses and tags provide the bread-and-butter funding source for an agency that doesn’t receive a dime of general fund tax money. As license and tag sales go, so goes Fish and Game’s funding.”

    No totally correct – Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson excise tax programs will distribute $750 million to the states in 2011. Fish and wildlife agencies use these funds to manage wildlife, conduct research, acquire and enhance habitat, provide hunting access and training, and conduct wildlife and environmental educational programs.

    These excise taxes are collected from the sale of hunting and fishing equipment – that’s why sportsmen swing a heavy bat with state fish and game agencies. It’s not just about license sales. For example, my state will receive over $800K this year in wildlife grants from the P-R fund.

  8. mikarooni Avatar

    Maybe we ought to look at it from a different perspective. If all that fish and game departments do is organize, coordinate, and facilitate the consumptive taking of game species and act as the mouthpieces for those in the hunting and fishing community who want only human hunters and fishers to be in on that take, thus ensuring a hard time for predator species; then are the fish and game departments really helping? If fish and game departments really don’t do a good job of apprehending poachers and, then, if when they do apprehend poachers they only act to legitimize a corrupt system that only doles out slaps on the wrist and often not even that if the culprit is politically connected; then are fish and game departments making a mockery of game laws and perhaps actually hurting? If little honest science is done by fish and game departments and the departments so often actually hinder and block good science being done by universities, then why should we support them? If fish and game departments are so often the tools of corrupt state crony governments, then why should we want them funded …to do anything?

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      ++if when they do apprehend poachers they only act to legitimize a corrupt system that only doles out slaps on the wrist ++

      The state game warden is not the judge, jury and hangman. It is up to the county attorney to prosecute, the jury to find them guilty, and the judge pass sentence. If the county attorney does not want to prosecute the case, then there in no case, if the jury finds them innocent, then there is no guilt, if the jury finds them guilty then the judge passes sentence at his/her discretion using the sentencing guidelines of the statute.

      There are many game wardens who have worked very hard apprehending poachers only to have the county attorney dismissing the case. From what I have read in the local papers in the last several months is a vast number of meth/coke, multiple number of DUI per arrest and sexual abuse cases. Are the jails large enough to hold poachers???

  9. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The teachers here in Valley County have agreed to take a 8 1/2 percent pay cut. The school year will be shortened by 13 days. The IDFG needs to be held to the same standards. If the money is not there look at pay cuts and staff reductions. Shorten the hunting and fishing seasons.
    Why does the hunting season start in August with archery and end in December with special hunts for muzzle loaders? I remember when the deer season was open during October and didn’t have all the special seasons.
    Opening day for fishing high mountain lakes used to be July 15 to allow for natural reproduction.
    Stop managing the wildlife and fish like they were on a giant game farm and let them alone for longer periods of time. Stop the senseless system of putting radio collars on everything that moves.
    Most of the regional game biologists could be fired with no noticible effect on wildlife populations.

    1. Tom Page Avatar
      Tom Page

      Larry –

      I don’t see the connection between shortening the seasons and improved wildlife management. I think the streamfishing in the Rockies now is better overall than in the 70’s, with the increased emphasis on wild (mostly non-native) fish management and C&R. And most of those high mountain lakes have never had (and will never have) much natural reproduction – those fish are planted. I wouldn’t mind seeing many of those lakes go fishless over time. Elk populations are much higher. Whitetails are in places they never used to be. Mule deer numbers are down across the west, but I haven’t seen any evidence of a rebound thanks to a shortened season or reduced tag numbers, both of which have been tried several times. On the whole I think there’s more wildlife out there now, in species and overall numbers, than at any time in my life (42 years). It could be lots better, sure, but things aren’t as terrible as some would have it.

      As for the special seasons, I think that’s a much better solution than throwing everyone in the woods for a few weeks like it used to be.

      While I agree with you that the revenue-producing species are managed for maximum herd size rather than for genetic diversity and optimum herd size with proper age/sex ratios, I don’t think changing this system will result in more attention to other species. F&G will be too busy dealing with all the griping over lost hunting opportunity…

      1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
        Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

        Tom, Larry, all:
        A few comments for clarification. The authority and responsibility for the conservation and mangement of wildlife – all wildlife – is vested with the states. I emphasize all wildlife because every state wildlife management agency I know of is responsible for all species whether hunted and fished or not. Wildlife management includes much more than setting fishing and hunting seasons, bag limits, monitoring harvest, success, etc. Idaho and other states have large programs dedicated to monitoring, conserving and managing non-hunted and non-fished species. ESA status considerations are increasingly important to every state. Idaho as one example has committed to maintain an effective Wildlife Diversity (non-game) program, but must do so without traditional hunting/fishing/trapping generated revenues. This alone is a huge challenge to the IDFG for it’s future financial sovency and ultimately effectivess as the public’s wildlife steward.
        Contrary to Mike’s post at the top of this string, non-consumptive users of the public’s wildlife resource have as much responsibility for conserving this common trust resource as do consumptive users who foot almost all of the bill for conserving and managing ALL wildlife in each state. Non-residents in particular, as users of state wildlife resources, pays relatively little or nothing toward wildlife conservation and management in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho or Indiana, Florida and Vermont. This is one of the most important challenges to wildlife conservation and management facing the United States RIGHT NOW.
        Idaho and other states have for years been exploring options and opportunities for broadening their funding base.

        1. Maska Avatar

          Mark, as a non-consumptive “user” of wildlife (i.e a wildlife watcher, amateur tracker, and amateur wildlife photographer), I believe it is my responsibility to help fund the state game and fish department’s activities, especially their work on behalf of non-game species. Putting my money where my mouth is, I have a wildlife plate on my car and participate in the income tax check-off for Share with Wildlife each year to the tune of $500.00.

          Nevertheless, when the politically-motivated Game Commission takes precipitous actions such as withdrawing from the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, I start feeling a heavy load of buyer’s remorse. I’ll probably hang on until we see what the next gubernatorial election brings, but it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm for a department whose governing body seems to be listening most intently to livestock owners and professional outfitters.

          1. william huard Avatar
            william huard

            You gotta love those TEABAG governors- they sure are loyal- to the wrong groups

        2. JimT Avatar

          That responsibility, Mark, is a trust based concept with the basic notion and promise that wildlife will be “managed” for the benefit of ALL of the citizens of a state. Surely you are not arguing that this balance has been achieved in Idaho, not based on the past several years of policies blatantly biased in favor of the hunters and the fishermen of the state.

          As usual, your statement is big on generalizations, and short on proposed solutions. So, I will ask you point blank…if the general population of Idaho agreed to a dedicated raise in the general tax rate enhance the budget of your agency, would YOU and others support a more inclusive approach and a more sympathetic ear to the so called non-consumptive “user” of natural resources?

          1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            Of course Idaho wildlife (including wolf) management plans and actions are for the benefit of all Idahoans. And of course not all will be satisfied or agree with those plans and actions. I’ll point out what should be obvious to you and anyone else who is close to wildlife management issues: there is no governance issue more rife with passion and polarized view points than North American wildlife management. That you and others are not satisfied with Idaho management plans is neither surprising nor in conflict with the public trust doctrine. Idaho’s wildlife resources are indeed held in trust for Idaho residents. If you argue that state management of wolves, or other common trust wildlife resources, is opposed by a majority of Idaho residents – please explain.

        3. Tom Page Avatar
          Tom Page

          Mark –

          I agree that a significant portion of IDFG resources go towards non-game species. As a landowner in Region 7, I’ve found that there’s more data available on sage grouse, curlews, pygmy rabbits, wolves, bull trout, chinook salmon and other species of concern, than there is on mule deer or antelope.

          Still, with the lopsided buck/doe and bull/cow ratios that exist in most general hunt units in the west, it’s pretty clear that most F&G commissions lean towards hunter opportunity more than biology when it comes to setting tag numbers and fees.

          1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            The Commission and the Department do lean towards providing optimum hunting opportunity, if desired by the Idaho public. I’ll assume that you mean doing so is counter to sound management for genetics or other fundamental biological principles?

          2. Tom Page Avatar
            Tom Page

            Of course, we all know that a few males can get the job done for lots of does/cows. But I’m not the only one with concerns about what that does for the longterm health of the herd.

            You’ve probably heard this analogy before, but how healthy of a society would we be if the only guys running around were a few fifteen-year olds and a couple 25-yr olds? Well, this is what the social structure is for many heavily hunted game herds.

            Also, I love to hunt as much as the next guy, but when this kind of management is happening, it’s hard to argue (to the non-hunting public especially) that hunting is being properly used to maintain optimum herd size, proper age/sex ratios, and maximum genetic diversity.

          3. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            Optimum herd size, proper age/sex ratios, maximum genetic diversity: are you thinking of specific examples or objectives for each metric and/or can you describe where deer or elk populations in Idaho are outside (below) responsible standards for any of those measures?

          4. truthbetold Avatar

            Mark nice posts….. truth be told!

          5. timz Avatar

            There is a vast chasm between Mark spouting of the IDF&G propaganda and the real truth about what is going on in Idaho with wolves. Truth be told my ass.

          6. truthbetold Avatar

            Mark, “proper age/sex” Isn’t the cow to calf ratio of concern in the LoLo zones? What is cause? ;o)

          7. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            TBT –
            The concern is for the survival of both productive cow elk and elk calves. Wolf predation of cow and calf elk is now the most important source of mortality and is holding the Lolo Zone elk population well below the capacity of current, existing elk habitat to support. Consequently, elk hunting opportunity is also well below the level that could be sustained by current, existing elk habitat in the Lolo Zone.
            The combination of declining elk habitat over time, since the great fires of 1910-1930’s, and pedation of cow and calf elk by bears, lions, and now wolves has caused a very large loss of public elk hunting benefits in the Lolo Zone that is a very large concern to many Idahoans. This is the basis for Idaho wolf management objectives in the Lolo Zone to reduce wolf numbers there to a level that will increase elk production and recuruitment to a level closer to habitat capacity – for the benefit of the Idaho public and others.

          8. Tom Page Avatar
            Tom Page

            TBT – age/sex ratios aren’t the same thing as cow/calf ratios. See below.

            Mark – I’m referring to the scarcity of older age bulls/bucks in most general season units (maybe one 5-year-old bull for every 100 cows, bucks probably a bit better), and the male/female ratios (usually in the 10-25 per 100 range) that are below those in unhunted areas or draw units (usually between 35-50 or more per 100). If you’re OK with this situation (which is the norm, not the exception, in most of the west outside of AZ,NM,NV and controlled hunt units elsewhere), there’s not much more to talk about, because to me it’s not OK.

            I don’t know if it’s a good idea for us to be discussing specifics, but I’d welcome it if you could send me some photos of mature mule deer bucks in Region 7 in Idaho, because I sure can’t find them, and I look pretty hard in areas that have good irrigated feed and reasonable winter range. Heck, it’s a pretty good day when I see a forkie mixed in with 50 does & fawns…then you see the same forkie on the back of a truck come October. This is in stark contrast to what one sees in western CO since they went to full draw for deer in 1999.

  10. cc Avatar

    Unless they’re all living in teepees and traveling by magic carpet ride, non-hunters do have an impact on wildife and habitat. There should be a tax on products like binoculars, bird guides, and camping gear. There was a nationwide movement for this years ago that failed due to lack of support by the companies selling the gear and those who purchase it.

    Ofcourse, hunters use binoculars and bird guides too so they would be getting taxed even more but I doubt most would mind.

    1. Maska Avatar

      I would be fine with that. One question (and I think I may have asked this before, but have forgotten the answer): Does the tax on firearms and ammunition apply only to sporting weapons like rifles and shotguns, or do we pay it when we purchase handguns and ammunition?

      1. ma'iingan Avatar

        The handgun excise tax is 10% – sporting arms and ammunition and archery equipment are taxed at 11%.

        1. Maska Avatar

          Thanks for the info. So is it only the additional 1% that supports wildlife management?

          1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            Maska – the full excise tax(D-J or P-R) in each case goes to support fish and wildlife management.

          2. ma'iingan Avatar

            The 10% handgun excise and 11% excise on long arms and archery equipment all go into the P-R fund pool. Fifty percent of the total funds are distributed to each state based on population. Half of the remaining 50% is distributed based on geographic size, and half based on number of hunting licenses held. The money must be used for approved wildlife resource management plans or wildlife restoration projects, or approved wildlife research projects.

          3. Maska Avatar

            Thanks for all the helpful info, Mark and Ma’iingan.

    2. JimT Avatar

      Since this is an inherent responsibility and privilege of ALL state citizens, ALL state citizens should support the management of state lands AND all flora and fauna found there in the form of a general tax. Seems to be the most logical, the most consistent with the theory of public trust, and the option that spreads the pain of increasing state wildlife agency budgets the most effectively.

    3. Alan Avatar

      Problem is there are lots of uses for binoculars besides wildlife watching, all people who buy camping gear are not wildlife watchers (how about those who set up camp in their back yards for the kids, or who are simply trying to save lodging while travelling and just swing into an occassional KOA?)
      Even bird guides may be purchased by someone who does all of his (her) watching from the comfort of their coach. I have been known to buy a hiking guide for someplace I have no intention of visiting just for entertainment, and to get a “feel” for a far off place.
      I wouldn’t mind a “Wildlife Watchers” license, purely voluntary (don’t know how you could enforce a mandatory one), sold by Fish and Game for habitat purchase or improvement, or protection of non game species; but I would want a guarantee that my money wasn’t being used for anything hunting related, predator control etc. Perhaps a sticker that could be displayed on a vehicle. I’ll bet a lot of people would buy them. Some states have voluntary donations on tax forms.
      The biggest difference between hunters (and their purchase of hunting licenses, tags etc.) and watchers, photographers etc. is this: Wildlife belongs to all of us. When a hunter kills an animal he (she) has in essence privatized that animal. It may no longer be enjoyed by the rest of us, ever. That doesn’t happen when I take a picture and move on. Through his license and tag fees, the hunter has essentially purchased that animal from the rest of us. When you look at it that way, those fees probably should be higher.

  11. David Avatar

    Budget discussions are always inherently flawed, IMO. We can’t balance the federal budget, because not everything is on the table. We can’t talk about where the money is going unless we can talk about where ALL the money is going.

    Does anyone know of a concise breakdown of expenditure for the “Management” of public lands and wildlife? I always laugh when they talk about “management costs” of wilderness designated areas. Wild is the antithesis of managed.

  12. David Avatar

    PS. Ralph again I’m disappointed in your commentary. I’ve heard (and agree with) a lot of ugly things said about Republicans. Generalizations are always ugly. But suggesting, and without subtlety I might add, that Republicans are seeking a return to a feudal system of class-based governance over our wildlife is just plain unAmerican. Shame on you.

    1. jdubya Avatar

      David, let’s take a guess…was it a Republican that paid for these tags or a Democrat? Killing game animals at an urban state park, all for the $$ to be made.

      I think Ralph is right on. I would suggest even more ugly things be said about Republicans.

    2. Elk275 Avatar


      ++I might add, that Republicans are seeking a return to a feudal system of class-based governance over our wildlife is just plain Un American. Shame on you.++

      Not so fast. Yes, there are wealthily Republicans and some Democrats who feel that the fish and wildlife belongs to the landowner. It is the hook and bullet crowd who through their Sportsman’s groups whether they are Republican or Democrat have opposed privatization of fish and wildlife. In the last session of the Montana State Legislation the “powers to be” tried to change Montana’s stream access law. The sportsman’s groups came to Helena by the hundreds and packed the committee hearings and the new bill never got out of committee. Very few bills got through the legislator and none that I know of had a large negative impact. Just wait two more years. If a fish and wildlife bill passed that would have impacted the public’s right to fish and wildlife, the sportsman’s groups and fishers and hunters with 15% of the last elections number of voters could present a petition which would cancel the bill and put it to voters in the next general election.

      There were hundreds of bills introduced about fish and wildlife that if passed could and would have had a very negative effect on the public’s ownership and access to the resource. I do not care if one is a non consumptive user or a consumptive user of fish and wildlife it is important that all of us who care to participate in committee hearings and write letters. Unfortunately wildlife watchers and non consumptive users do not have a large enough presents at the meeting and they are not organized or have the same effective clubs and groups as the hook and bullet crowd. The hook and bullet crowd is middle to lower middle class or working class who generally vote Republican and have conservative values, but they cherish there hunting, fishing and outdoor recreational opportunities. They are never going to be a part of the a feudalistic system that will allow them to be private owners of fish and wildlife.

      1. David Avatar

        Elk, I don’t think you and I disagree as much as I do with some of these others… but I will respond to a couple of things:
        1) Private land access rights is not at issue in this discussion. What IS at issue is privatization of wildlife, as was alleged by Ralph,et al. National parks exist because it has been felt that there is a right of the public to wild places. As such, the “management” of these “wild” places must remain the obligation of society in general.
        2) Most people on this blog seem to advocate raising license fees. The more this mentality is propagated, the more these resources will be viewed for their asset value, and the more the “feudal” approach will be reinforced.
        My personal views are that the management of our public lands as an increasingly scarce resource is one of the most important roles the government has.

    3. JimT Avatar

      David, just look to the history of the Republican party of late. Then, go research the history and parameters of the term oligarchy. Sure seems to fit the agenda of the radical right of the conservatives driving Western state politics these days..

      1. David Avatar

        RE: the Republican party… Both parties are completely lost. They are both constituted almost exclusively by the rich, controlled by lobbies and vested interests, and corrupted by ideology. I’m no fan of either. But if we’re really to the point of blanketly alleging that our government (either party) only serves the “proper social classes” then either we are truly due for a revolution, or the state of political discourse in this country will become our destruction. Call me an optimist, but I think it’s closer to the latter.

  13. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Several of my Yellowstone wolf photos have been selected by the Bradford Exchange to be featured on a series of collector plates. They asked me to suggest a wildlife agency to donate some of the proceeds too. The IDFG was not one that came to mind after their recent attempts to kill the Lolo wolves and their general anti-wolf attitude..
    I went with the Defenders of Wildlife because I felt they had actually done more to put “boots on the ground” to help wolves with their policies reimbursing ranchers for several years and for working with the sheep industry in the Wood River Valley to keep wolves and domestic sheep apart. They also have purchased numerous wolf photos from me and presently pay to use four of my wolf photos on their Western Wolves webpage. Defenders also had me present a workshop on photographing wolves for which they paid me.
    The IDFG has always asked me to “donate” my photos for their use and tend to dis-regard my comments at their wolf hunt meetings.
    I would like to have a series of Idaho wolf photos to use after the Yellowstone Wolf plates are sold, but I can’t do it if the Idaho wolf numbers are reduced as planned by the IDFG and Idaho legislature. If the IDFG wants the wildlife watching and wildlife photographer groups to donate, they need to leave lots of wolves to watch and to photograph.I suggested that they leave the Phantom hill pack near Ketchum alone for such purposes and was ignored.

  14. JimT Avatar

    Ah, Larry, but you see, the non hunters and non fishermen are supposed to pay up, but keep quiet about promoting THEIR agenda or getting a meaningful presence at the policy table. Pony up, and then shut up.

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      Everyone both now and 1000 years from now benifits from conservation. Hunters and fishermen benifit from conservation. Anyone who has decendents benifits from conservation. Conservation is something only for today. All these tax arguments based on use today are silly.

      1. PointsWest Avatar

        That should read: “Conservation is something NOT only for today.”

  15. mikarooni Avatar

    My job, in my senior years, has evolved into what is essentially remedial project management on botched advanced technology projects. I’m sent in to repair it or close it and I’ve learned that everybody has an excuse and it’s really a waste of time to argue over who’s at fault. I look at the outcome, look at the cost to benefit ratio for the interests I represent, and make clean decisions on the basis of whether competency has or has not been demonstrated.

    In that same context, I guess I don’t care why state fish and game departments don’t seem to focus on what I think is important; I don’t care if they really are responsible or just victims or not; I don’t care why or whether they are or are not being forced to kowtow to interests that I find corrupt; I don’t care whether it is their fault that poachers get off easy or that they’re enforcing game laws that I find foolish and medieval. I don’t care if there’s some antiquated hillbilly tradition that says the states govern wildlife. I don’t think the states have proven that they have any credibility governing anything, much less wildlife. I don’t care if it is or is not the state fish and game departments fault; they have failed to represent my interests. I want the feds to manage wildlife and I don’t want to reinforce the corruption in the state agencies by giving them any more of my money under any circumstances or for any purpose. They’ll just use it to no good end. I don’t want to pay for anything the state agencies do.

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      handing money to IDFG (even under the auspice of conservation) just gives Butch Otter and the rest in the Idaho Legislature that much more to play with.

      The tax should go to those that diminish the wild – not those who have benign admiration for it.

  16. Brian Ertz Avatar

    It’s interesting to me. When livestock ranchers pay an Idaho state fee to use state lands – does that entitle them to have their money disproportionately spent to improve grazing opportunity on state lands ? The Idaho Constitution says no – in part because that was the price the states paid to get granted these lands from the federal government.

    The Idaho Constitution makes very clear that those lands belong to all Idahoans – they are held in “trust” such that Idahoans (not just the fee payer) benefit generally from their use and generally from the fees collected from their use. Ranchers (or loggers – or whomever) are taking a resource that has value that is held for and belongs to all Idahoans – all Idahoans ought benefit for the lease/sale of that commercial opportunity – and those dollars were decidedly endowed to the schools for the benefit of all Idaho citizens. Sounds like a healthy “trust” relationship to me (when you look past all the cronyism, abuse, and corruption that we had to carve through to get that trust relationship acknowledged).

    So – who does Idaho’s wildlife belong to ? Does it belong to the hunters ? Mark Gamblin and others are quick to say that wildlife in Idaho belongs to Idahoans (NOT the federal gov’mint) – So is that true ? Does Idaho’s wildlife belong to Idahoans ? If so, does that wildlife have value ? When that value is “taken” – should all Idaho citizens be compensated ? Should hunter fees that grant them opportunity to “take” wildlife resources from a resource that belongs to all Idahoans grant them disproportionate influence in how that money is spent ?

    No. Idaho’s wildlife belongs to all Idahoans – it is held in trust. The leased/sold opportunity to take from what belongs to all Idahoans ought benefit all Idahoans in general – NOT just the fee payer. One way the Department has been able to accomplish that “trust” obligation is in its habitat and non-game activities that benefit all Idahoans.

    Non-consumptive “users” don’t “take” nor depreciate the value of what belongs to all Idahoans. For the most part, photographers, wildlife-watchers, hikers, etc. haven’t done anything to diminish the resource nor otherwise require rehabilitation dollars. Why should non-consumptive users pay for “restoration”/”rehabilitation” when it’s not our activities that diminish what belongs to us ? For a general tax to fund restoration/conservation activities – we would in essence be subsidizing the cleanup of an externality cost of those commercial activities that do diminish what belongs to all Idahoans.

    I would support a state tax on activities that diminish wildlife resources in the state of Idaho. I would support an Idaho Livestock tax on grazing on public and private ground that diminishes Idahoans’ wildlife resource (& the habitat upon which wildlife depends). The same is true for real estate development, logging, and any other consumptive activity that creates impact that depreciates Idahoan’s shared wildlife resource – making necessary any of those costly non-game restoration activities that IDFG is involved in. I think the rate should be determined based on relative impact of a given activity.

    I would support graduated exemptions of such a tax that would be available to those who agree to conservation-easements or other activities that minimize and/or mitigate their impact.

    Anything else is an indirect subsidy to those that depreciate the value of Idahoans’ wildlife resources.

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      Let’s take an analogous phenomena like soil erosion. Are you saying we should try and prevent soil erosion by taxing those who do the most to create it? Farmers can plow fields on steep unstable ground as long as they pay additional tax to build sediment traps in streams? What happens when all the soil is gone and reservoirs and bays are all full of silt in 200 years? Who will pay the tax to fix that problem?

      1. Brian Ertz Avatar

        I’m not saying that individuals or people ought have the right to resources if they’re willing to pay – the point is for those resources that are available and valuable (whether monetarily or not) it ought be the people that impact those common resources that pay for the cleanup and restoration(i.e. externality costs).

        That’s a free market mechanism that would work at conserving resources for which there is a social value.

        Soil Conservation Districts expend dollars for programs to conserve soil. Should all citizens pay for those programs ? Or should the people/entities responsible for the degradation of the soil pay for those programs ?

        Let’s say I’m a chemical manufacturing plant that’s figured out its cheaper to dump in the river than dispose of my industrial waste in a way that’s benign to the rest of my community. The community has an interest in a clean river – the benefits of a clean river are shared by all. So it ought be the tax-burden of all to clean up the river after I dump my waste into it ? No. The community’s obligation to pay to clean up that river does not derive from its shared interest in a clean river – that river would otherwise be clean if it were not for my individual economic activity – thus, I should be responsible for the economic cost of leaving that shared resource as I found it to the extent that it is changed by my activity.

        The same ought be true for wildlife held in state “trust”. Mark and others claim that because everyone enjoys wildlife – everyone ought pay – even those whose activity does not diminish the resource that would otherwise be there were it not for particular/commercial consumptive uses that diminish the resource. But wildlife would thrive in diversity and number were it not for certain economic activities – those responsible to diminishing that baseline ought pay for restoration/rehabilitation in a fair, proportional way to their impact to that resource for which we all have interest.

        That’s the free-market way of doing it – and it’s the fair way of doing it.

        1. PointsWest Avatar

          Applying free-market principles to taxation for conservation is hit-n-miss at best. It makes no consideration for people in the future. Free market principles for anything is hit-n-miss at best. In a purely free market, heroine would be legal and whichever hardworking and God fearing conservative capitalist could create the most addicts would win the golden ring.

          I had two semesters of economics at UofI in 1981 just after Reagan was elected and one of the two professors was very conservative, worshiped Reagan, worshiped Milton Friedman, and worshiped supply side economics. We were shown a Milton Freidman film where he took the audience on tour of the magical sweatshops of Hong Kong. Hong Kong was touted as the world’s most magnificent example of a truly free market with all its glorious manifestations. In one shop, a boy was carving ivory figurines that sold in international markets for thousands of dollars…right there off a small alley in a space no larger than a typical American bedroom, the sublime beauty that is the free market was creating untold wealth simply because the free market was allowed blossom and grace the earth with its splendor. If you looked in the background, however, you could plainly see African elephant tusks stacked in the corner. The kid in the back alley was carving up elephant tusks obtained in illegal trade with African poachers. Illegal poaching of elephants was a serious problem in the 1980’s because of the powerful free-market (black market) in ivory. Elephant tusks are large and can be carved into large figurines…larger than anything else making them unique and, due to powerful market forces, highly valuable.

          This film upset me so badly that I made a bit of an outburst in the following lecture there in that lecture hall of about 150 students. I didn’t mean to make an outburst but when I started speaking, it turned into one. The point I made was that Friedman spoke so honorable of a totally free market but then showed a case where it had spawned an illegal market in ivory that was supported by poaching African elephants and was leading them towards extinction and it only benefited a few very wealthy individuals. This professor was stunned. She was visible shaken and did not know what to say. She did not have an answer and mumbled something about a few externalities such as the American bison.

          I agree that free market forces are powerful but they are also very dangerous and can destroy life itself if not chained and muzzled. To argue that something is “good” because it is “free” and is a “market” has become something of a religion since Reagan…a very false religion and many of our problems today are a result of blind faith in free markets.

          1. Daniel Berg Avatar
            Daniel Berg

            I like where Brian is going with this, but I have to acknowledge some of the potential pitfalls (JB’s comment below, for instance).

            Free market capitalism can be ugly, but so can an environment of controlled markets. Controlled markets are especially prone to cumbersome beauracracies and corruption. Protectionism can easily get out of hand. I’ve always wondered what the appropriate mix is between free market capitalism and a controlled market environment.

        2. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
          Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

          I think I understand your premise. It seems your argue that because hunting/fishing (e.g.) are “consumptive” uses of common trust fish/wildlife resources – those uses by one segment of society diminish non-consumptive opportunities by those members of society – because hunting/fishing uses diminish abundance and diversity of wildlife. If I mis-understand your reasoning, please clarify. If I understand correctly, you misunderstand basic wildlife population dynamic principles and the foundation of wildlife population management. Wildlife management, for the purpose of harvest and consumption, is almost always directed by the principle of harvestable surplus. Nothing is precise in wildlife population regulation – by humans or by “natural” processes – but it is correct and accurate to say that hunting mortality is, year in and year out, one of the smallest influences on the dimensions of a population of deer, elk, fish or fowl. The incredible success of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was/is based on this reality. Repeating again, wildlife management in North America is responsible for the rich and diverse public trust wildlife resource we have. It is also responsible for the diversity of public beneficial uses of that resource – including non-consumptive uses such as bird watching, other wildlife viewing and the simple knowledge that wildlife exists and is freely available for sanctioned public use. Your argument that public trust responsibilities are not upheld by contemporary wildlife management is ….. a chimera.

    2. JB Avatar

      There are a few problems with the approach you advocate: first, it relies on politicians to do “the right” thing (i.e., advocate that industries that impact wildlife pay a “tax” that is relative to the impact), which probably isn’t realistic (despite being desirable); second, it fails to recognize that we (ALL OF US) impact wildlife through a variety of activities (eating, driving, etc.)–how do you scale a “tax” relative to these impacts? Finally, it fails to recognize that most habitat alterations, while negatively impacting some species, also benefit other species. Thus, as I argued on an earlier threat, most habitat is not “destroyed” but simply modified. Should people be punished for harvesting trees, in turn, creating grasslands and early successional habitat?

  17. PointsWest Avatar

    Something to consider is that conservation, by its very definition, extends over time indefinitly into the future. You cannot rationalize a tax based only on current use. Conservation does not only benifit those who use it today, it benifits those who might use it for countless generations in the future. In 200 years, almost everyone with children today will have at least some decendents who will use the products of conservation today. Conservation funds should come from general taxation.

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      you don’t need the tax (or other mechanism of incorporating costs of impact) to represent the market value of the resource into the indefinite future — you need the tax (or other mechanism) to encourage conservation (or impact mitigation) now.

      Future generations ought not have to pay for wildlife opportunities now. We ought manage those wildlife opportunities as if they already belonged to future generations right now – because they do. Forcing the general public to pay to cleanup or mitigate the impact to that resource that individual entities inflict now is not “stewardship” nor is it “conservation” of a common resource — it’s subsidy to industry.

      1. PointsWest Avatar

        …so you control what people do by making it cost money with taxes and fees? In the case of hunting, then only the rich will be able to hunt? That is the other pitfall with any free market priciple, it makes it truly a rich man’s world.

  18. JB Avatar


    If you fund conservation solely on the dollars of those who are negatively impacting a resource you risk creating a system in which agencies are either easily captured (i.e., capitulate to the desires of the regulated to maintain funding) or “de-clawed” when the groups they regulate exert political power to reduce their effectiveness.

    1. Tom Page Avatar
      Tom Page

      Brian & JB

      Interesting thoughts on this topic…

      One question: Suppose a landowner or a user of state lands does something to enhance the public wildlife resource, would such a landowner be eligible to receive some of these hypothetical tax funds? Or would that be too close to privatization of wildlife? Because this scenario is what exists under several cooperative landowner programs in the west, but the landowner gets hunting tags instead of dollars.

      1. JB Avatar

        Hi Tom:

        The CRP is pretty close to what you
        describe (it uses tax dollars to pay landowners to create habitat valuable to wildlife). I generally don’t have a problem with this approach, but I think it is overused (at least where I live). When one projects out over a few decades, it becomes clear that the same money would be better spent purchasing valuable habitat–at least in a lot of cases–and protecting it in perpetuity.

        1. Jay Avatar

          Unfortunately, landowners get paid by the acreage, not what they plant on it, which results in a lot of acres planted in whatever is cheapest at the feed & seed, be it crested wheatgrass or whatever. Good native species are too expensive and don’t get used.

        2. Jay Avatar

          Unfortunately, landowners get paid by the acreage under the CRP program, not what they plant on it, which results in a lot of acres planted in whatever is cheapest at the feed & seed, be it crested wheatgrass or whatever. Good native species are too expensive and don’t get used.

  19. Brian Ertz Avatar

    JB: The agency is already captured – agencies funded by general dollars are likewise captured. The direction doesn’t so much come from the source of dollars as from the political agendas of those in political power pulling the strings, appointing players, leveraging legislation etc. General dollars, wildlife watcher dollars, or any other dollars placed in the F&G department will be spent collaring wildlife for “research” and then easily killing wildlife that “conflicts” with that political agenda.

    That, or it will be used to fuel projects – a paradigm which understands “conservation” to be a developement/agricultural endeavor to “enhance” wild places into revenue resources for whatever commercial interest fits their fancy – or pulls their strings from above. We don’t need to beat, plow, chain, burn, collar, count, nor seed our way to “enhanced” wildlife opportunity. This is not conservation, this is commercial cultivation – and it is mutually exclusive with the wild and that trust obligation to the future that I will continue to maintain ought be emboldened.

    Points West – Free market mechanisms work when those who profit on the destruction of the wild are forced to pay/incorporate those costs. Regulation is likewise important – but subsidized destruction – albeit indirect – as I’m talking about, is not a government intervention that is defensible in the context of conservation.

    Mark Gamblin: I’m not saying that hunters and anglers ought be the only source of revenue for the Department, particularly in the context of restraining the depletion of the wildlife resource to the “sustainable surplus”, which I’ll admit I am mighty skeptical of your Department in even that regard.

    I’m saying that if the Department is doing restoration/rehab work outside the scope of what consumptive hunters and anglers impact – and require additional revenues for that work – they should look to the sources of that impact that they seek to restore/rehab for that additional revenue. That includes primarily Ag, but also developers in the state – NOT non-consumptive users, whose “use” does little if anything to contribute to the need to restore/rehab/mitigate.

    If what you’re looking to do is “enhance” habitat productivity beyond it’s natural/primitive existing potential – to benefit non-consumptive “users” – then I’d resist any such attempt to further obscure the lines between wildlife management and agriculture. I like my experiences of those places left in Idaho that are the way it was before ambitious farmers, ranchers, and – yes – public land and game managers had their way with its so-called “productivity” – in that very narrow sense of the word – and my objective is to contribute to the restoration of as many places as I can to that natural state – even if it doesn’t pad the politicians’ pockets, the bureaucrats’ budgets, or the corporate ranchers’ bottom-line as much as a game-farm, feed-lot, or excise tax on benign use might. That way, my kids might get a good chance at knowing where God left it (rather than having to clean up my generation’s mess) – and have a state that preserves a landscape that gives them a better opportunity to choose the experience of humility, contentedness, inspiration, conviction and all those other things a natural landscape and healthy wildlife community “produce” without diminishing their landbase in one way or another. Hopefully, if taught well, they’ll make the right choices deciding where it goes from there.

    Propose a tax on the people and monied interests whose impact to general habitats and populations you’re cleaning up in your “restoration”/rehab work. That’s the fair thing and there are existing models to choose from.

    Good luck 😉

    1. JB Avatar


      What, in your mind, constitutes agency “capture”? True capture (as defined by political scientists) entails an abandonment of an agency’s mission, which I just don’t see. And yes, agencies manage habitat through alterations, which–at least in my neck of the woods–often includes things like removing invasive species and modifying habitat such that it is more conducive to endangered species.

      You are generalizing what is happening with wolves to all other species, and your generalizations simply do not hold.

      1. Brian Ertz Avatar

        IDFG and other Western F&G state agencies are captured by livestock and other consumptive users – particularly commercialized hunting interests (and make sure to note that I DO distinguish this crop from more traditional sporting groups, although some of those groups have been “captured” as well) – that is to say they abandon their mission to benefit wildlife and the public trust by continually advancing anthropogenic means of manipulating the environment on behalf of marginal interests rather than the more general public interest. Wildlife conservation used to have something to do with preserving the existing resource. That would mean a wildlife agency that was willing and able (which at least IDFG is NOT) to confront competing interests that diminished the resource. Instead – they find markets and agency budgets to try to anthropogenically undue the damage that they stand by and watch happen for fear of agitating those special interests that have in effect “captured” their agency.

        you won’t see IDFG personnel contact federal public land managers and complain of denuded mule deer habitat like you might have 10 years ago. That’s because a few political players in the state legislature who are aligned with Ag interests themselves – or outright Ag players themselves – are able to send shivers through the Department with a couple of phone calls to the brass.

        You are generalizing what is happening with wolves to all other species, and your generalizations simply do not hold.

        Bighorn sheep. Mule deer. Elk. Fish species that rely on water that Ag competes for use with …. etc. etc. etc.

        You are particularizing what is happening with IDFG (and other state agencies) to wolves, and your particularization simply does not hold.

  20. Brian Ertz Avatar


    I think you’re right Mark – that in a lot of way wildlife management has been a strong interest with respect to defending the public trust & wildlife – especially historically . The push and pull between wildlife managers and other interests that have threatened wildlife has always existed an I am grateful for that – as we all should be.

    But the historical good that the model that you describe was made possible by systemic mechanisms of political insulation and when those were threatened – by individuals with integrity who were willing to move through really challenging times and circumstance and defend it – and the wildlife and wild places it was meant to protect.

    I hope these people still exist – and that the stand strong – because this wolf issue now, and other issues such as bighorn sheep – the makeup of your commission – and the willingness of legislators to lean in is very troubling to me. The integrity of the model that you describe is breaking down but you defense of this model and your department seems to ignore that fact.

    Brackett finally got around to punting an associate of yours who was just doing his job – describing extremely degraded game habit – quite literally to the fishes – who stood and fell on China Mountain.

    The Woolgrowers put you guys in an awkward and I’d say unfairly shameful position on bighorn.

    And anecdote after anecdote after anecdote … Is this a welcome part of the model that you defend in trying to debunk my skepticism of your department’s fidelity to the public trust responsibilities we all agree ought be upheld ?

    I understand you won’t answer those questions – doing so here may not be the most productive use of that discretion. But will you stand behind closed doors and do the right thing ? Will you stand in the open if necessary and be among the men and women whose integrity is substantially responsible for the material success you describe in that model of wildlife management ? Will you officially suggest that those primarily responsible for the overwhelming lion’s share of the impact to our common wildlife resource ought be the ones to pay for it’s rehabilitation ? Or is it easier – more politically expedient – to spread that burden across those non-consumptive users to whom that depreciated (through so little fault of our own) resource belongs despite our activies being relatively benign ?

    1. IDhiker Avatar


      Very well said – I agree 100%. Mark Gamblin’s seeming belief that the IDFG is not being influenced by the commissioners and politicians representing other interests is perplexing. The professional people in IDFG need to stand up to much of the nonsense swirling around the wolf issue in idaho, which to date, they have not. In a perfect world, IDFG would be independent of outside pressures and manage wildlife accordingly, as Mark says they do, but in reality IDFG is still largely politically driven. In theory, Mark is right, but in reality…

      1. timz Avatar

        Poor old Mark has seen what happens in this state to those that stand up to the wing nuts that run it. Ask the former DOT director or a couple of the Legislators who were recently stripped of their committee chairs for speaking out.

        1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
          Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

          Alomost out the door but IDhiker’s comment about Commissioners and politicians deserves a quick response. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I believe the IDFG is not being influenced by Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners or that policy should not be influenced by elected officials. The Department is responible for implementation of policies and programs approved by the Fish and Game Commission. The Commission is appointed by the Governor to serve the needs and interests of the Idaho public. The IDFG does not and should not operate independently of the Fish and Game Commission.

          1. IDhiker Avatar

            But, Mark, if you don’t operate independently, at least in theory, from the commission, how can you say department decisions are scientifically and biologically based? It destroys all of IDFG’s credibility. I would also put forward the possibility that the commission does not necessarily represent the public, but rather the special interests represented and supported by one man, the governor. Notice the heavy influence of the livestock industry on the commission. The question really here is, IMO, whether the administration of IDFG has the courage to stand up to the commission if what the commission is proposing is unsound, or whether “job-security” and promotion is the paramount concern.

          2. JB Avatar


            No decisions are made “based upon” science; rather, science informs policy choices. This is because science cannot be used to determine what should be it can only be used to determine what is–or more appropriately, what isn’t.

            Thus, one can employ science in an effort to determine the efficacy of poisons for getting rid of predators as well as the efficacy of actions designed to conserve them. In either case, science provides useful information that informs the policy process.

        2. SAP Avatar

          Excellent points, JB.
          It would be a HUGE improvement if more people would understand the proper role of science. Understanding this won’t solve our disputes, but it would at least get the true nature of the disputes out in the open. Right now, we have people on both sides insisting that they have “Science” on their side. Not a good formula for progress if each side thinks the other is stupid/lying/corrupt/whatever, when we really just have different ideas about how the world works and how it ought to work.

    2. JB Avatar

      [sorry, this was meant to go here]

      There are a few problems with the approach you advocate: first, it relies on politicians to do “the right” thing (i.e., advocate that industries that impact wildlife pay a “tax” that is relative to the impact), which probably isn’t realistic (despite being desirable); second, it fails to recognize that we (ALL OF US) impact wildlife through a variety of activities (eating, driving, etc.)–how do you scale a “tax” relative to these impacts? Finally, it fails to recognize that most habitat alterations, while negatively impacting some species, also benefit other species. Thus, as I argued on an earlier threat, most habitat is not “destroyed” but simply modified. Should people be punished for harvesting trees, in turn, creating grasslands and early successional habitat?

      1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
        Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

        You have highlighted a very important misunderstanding of the appropriate process for North American wildlife management. JB explained, again, that science is the tool not the arbiter sound decison making. All decisions that serve society are done through politics – ALL OF THEM. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, in fact it is inherently CORRECT. The challenge to society is to build traditions, procedures, legal framework that ensure those politically derived decisions are done so in ways that meet the needs and desires of society.
        So, using the Fish and Game Commission as one example, our society established a system of wildlife management decision making that is the responsibility of the Fish and Game Commission. Commission members are part of our political system because they are appointed by our Governor and they are charged with understanding the views and desires of Idaho citizens, to fairly represent Idahoans as their wildlife resource stewards and to manage the state wildlife resources to satisfy the desires and expectations of Idshoans, within Idaho constitutional side boards.
        If Idaho wildlife management policies, approved and sanctioned by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, are based on sound science/biology – which they are – it’s easy to say just that.

        1. IDhiker Avatar

          Exactly Mark, and if I gave the wrong impression, I have never been naive enough to think that politics and science are not mixed in the decision making process. I was speaking of theoretical concepts.

          My concern is whether the policies “approved and sanctioned” by the commission follow closely on the heels of sound biological recommendations made by the IDFG, or whether they deviate too far to the political side of it.

          Regarding JB’s comment, of course the decisions are not based on science. But this concept still makes the headlines by those championing delisting. For example, this quote from David Allen, RMEF CEO, in yesterdays’s paper, “We are protecting our right to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals any decision that results in another setback for conservation and science-based wildlife management.” Jon Tester made similar remarks when he pushed his rider.

          Mark, it would be helpful if you would rebut these comments and inform people like Tester and Allen with the same points you have made here about the reality of the process. Again, I know darn well how the system works, my comments were rebutting this constant use of “science-based” by Allan, Tester, et al.

        2. Brian Ertz Avatar

          On the appropriateness of political decision-making:

          Let’s say IDFG officer under your charge were to write an email to public land managers that looked something like this:

          We’ve received several calls from hunters today regarding bands of sheep grazing in upper Trout Creek (west side of drainage) and the Walstrom Hollows area. All callers have commented that it appears use is excessive – especially in riparian areas.

          Talking with our staff, we were under the impression that livestock were suppose to be removed from that area by early October. This is impacting mule deer hunting and it’s an issue we need to discuss prior to next season.

          Now let’s say the permittee whose sheep were causing the impact called up his local rep with the Woolgrowers and complained that he’s getting pressure from the wildlife managers.

          Is it appropriate for industry groups – say, the Woolgrowers – and state legislators – say Bedke & others – to call the governor and encourage the IDFG to ‘look the other way’ on Trout Creek and Walstrom Hollows ?

          Would it be appropriate for the Governor’s Office to call
          various members of the Commission and explicitly or implicitly suggest that maybe those IDFG boots on the ground ought ‘look the other way’ ?

          Would it be appropriate for those members of the Commission to take a regional supervisor aside and have a ‘heart-to-heart’ about how maybe the heartache on Trout Creek & Walstrom Hollows might not be worth it ?

          Would it be appropriate for the regional supervisor to take an IDFG staff-member aside and relay this general sentiment coming from above ?

          How do you suppose an officer under your charge would react to learning that his/her little email made its way to the Governor’s office with a follow-up call to the Commission ?

          Does this process send a message across the Department ? How do you suppose an entire IDFG staff might respond in their professional capacity to learning of this little controversy ?

          Is this process a legitimate exercise of the appropriate policy-making authority vested in the Commission that you defend here ?

          Does this process contribute to the professionalism in the department ?

          How often does this occur ? We know it’s much more ubiquitous than just little Trout Creek and Walstrom Hollows.

          We know the message is received both explicitly and implicitly by your department’s boots on the ground.

          Mark: There’s a term those of us on the outside use for the way you shrug off legitimate concern and avoid answering the clear questions that public have about the breakdown of fiduciary responsibilities pervasive throughout a department: It’s called bureaunese – the ability to skirt direct questions with vague allusions and hollow broad-sweeping reassurances to something that might be indirectly related to the subject at hand – but that successfully avoid its candid confrontation. Usually, bureaucrats learn the language of bureaunese in talking-school (i.e. some convention lecture – or several lectures over time), or from a superior who holds their hand through a ‘better way of phrasing that’ upon edit of correspondence with public or politician. We’re pretty sure one’s fluency in bureaunese is a primary contributing factor when evaluating their fitness for professional ascent through any given agency/department.

          A successful exercise of bureaunese can be identified by a correspondence with public in which NO commitments are made and in which an agitated concerned citizen leaves the office (or phone-call) with a warm fuzzy feeling despite the absence of any action or accountability which might be construed as material responsiveness.

          Mark: I’d like to take this moment to compliment you on your fluency and command of that tricky language: bureaunese. I suspect there’s a bright future for you in the Department and throughout your career.

          I hope you’ll use your fluency in this for good – when you find yourself in the right moment – and leave the Department and our wildlife heritage better-off than you found it – rather than for evil – i.e. latent good intentions eclipsed by comfiness of status quo – career-driven motives.

  21. PointWest Avatar


    Let’s say that animal rights catch on and all hunting was banned in the US. How much “consumptive use” of wildlife would be saved?

    For the so call non-consumptive user to use wildlife we would still need to:

    -provide roads and facilities for access to public lands
    -provide information and services
    -police lands for poachers
    -study and monitor wildlife and develop laws and policy
    -protect wildlife from agriculture, industry, and development
    -manage wildlife population including overpopulation

    Note: the last part will vastly increase in cost without hunting.

    State game departments were originally setup by hunters to regulate hunting and the costs were primarily to police for poachers by Game Wardens. Policing for poachers without hunting might be a major cost. It is in Africa.

    States like New Mexico, you know, had no elk in 1900 because they had all been killed by humans. There were no elk in the southern part of Island Park for the same reason.

    So lets take policing for poachers…how will free-market principles be applied to the taxation required to hire and manage an army of Game Wardens without hunters? What are the consumptive use and non-consumptive use parameters here and who will be held responsible to prevent poaching.

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar


      First, I am not an animal rights advocate – but I’ll try to answer your questions as if in my perfect world where wildlife is allowed to be wild – hunters and angler’s are allowed a regulated take of surplus and those who impacted or diminished wildlife and public lands that belong to us all were made to pay for the cleanup and restoration of their activities:

      -provide roads and facilities for access to public lands
      -provide information and services

      Roads and facilities are largely taken care of with federal dollars – we all already pay, particularly on federal public lands (the vast majority of lands served)
      Information and services are similarly paid for both by federal and state monies – so there’s some overlap. Otherwise, sure … apply a general tax for that – but earmark it with statute.

      -police lands for poachers

      Poachers should pay for policing lands via larger fees and penalties that accompany conviction and when plea-bargaining – put those recovered dollars in a policing budget – both fees & penalties could be kept high and earmarked through statute. If there’s a shortfall – consider alternatives.

      -study and monitor wildlife and develop laws and policy
      -protect wildlife from agriculture, industry, and development

      Dollars for studying, monitoring and protecting wildlife might come from the cost/taxes on permit to developers, ag, and other commercial interests that impact the wildlife and make necessary developing policy for its protection.

      -manage wildlife population including overpopulation

      “Management” of wildlife might be covered by same – from above. Otherwise, should overpopulation occur – a volunteer board might convene to determine the source of overpopulation and evaluate the assumptions associated with what constitutes “overpopulation”. If “overpopulation” negatively affects Ag – then its “control” ought be paid for by Ag — if it’s impacting residents – then its “control” ought be paid for via local levy or other means … etc.

      Note: I’m not advocating the elimination of hunting.

      Again – you assume that I’m anti-hunting … I’m not – just enjoyed an antelope-burger and it’s mighty more tasty and morally sound than any beef burger I’ve ever had.

      The point is that the public ought not be responsible for paying for and cleaning up other peoples’ impact to a public land and wildlife resource that belongs to them in trust. That’s a bad way of looking at who ought be responsible to pay. If somebody threw a rock through a public bus window – it is true – the public interest would be served by fixing the window regardless of who threw it – that doesn’t make it good policy to ignore the responsibility – the source of depreciation – in determining who pays. maybe the public should pay if we can’t find who impacted the bus – maybe that’s worth it. But if we can identify who impacted the bus – then it’s good policy to make that person/people pay to recoup those costs. It’s a deterrent to the destructive behavior (It might make that person/people think twice about trashing public assets via) in the first place, – and ultimately, its the responsible thing to do. We can identify those industries who are disproportionately responsible for impacting wildlife and habitats. It’s not just hunters – I’d argue hunters are a fraction of that impact – and I think hunters have been footing the bill to clean-up for/restore/rehab the most ubiquitous wildlife habitat impact (i.e. livestock grazing) for far too long. I think more groups should be pissed ! Again, mostly it’s ag, development, and other industries. Instead – we see this conversation start with an expection that benign users ought pay ? That’s bass-ackward !

      It’s not good policy to ignore the source of degradation on public lands and public wildlife habitats – it’s the fiducially responsible thing to look to those who impact to pay for its restoration – free-market principles work a lot better at achieving the ultimate goal then obscuring and externalizing those costs among and between as has been done.

      1. mike post Avatar
        mike post

        Brian, we dont always agree but I find your current posting very rational and compelling. Lets start with royalty free mineral extraction and subsidized timber on public lands. Probably enough possible recovery there to make up most of the needed funding.

        Of a different nature is the park system. Anyone traveling thru Yellowstone can easily see the economic impacts of non-hunting wildlife “users” on the public tax dollar. The entry fee (per car, not per person) does not even come close to the costs associated with managing those folks and the wildlife they want to see (or feed, pet, run over, be gored by or otherwise conflict with).

  22. cc Avatar

    No Pay, No Say by Ted Williams, Jan/Feb Audubon magazine

    1. mike post Avatar
      mike post

      …and in the latest issue he discusses how CBD is sucking wildlife money out of the system for unwarranted attornies fees….


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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