A movement has been started in the State of Idaho that is finally coming to light concerning the management and funding of the wildlife in the State of Idaho. This movement was brought to the light of day by the Idaho Wildlife Federation in Boise through the use of the Freedom of Information Act. The Idaho Wildlife Federation was able to get copies of emails between legislators and a wealthy sportsman about the auction tag bill and the firing of two Idaho Fish and Game commissioners whose first terms were about to expire. The commissioners were invited to reapply for a second term but told that their applications would not be approved by the Senate Resources and Environmental Committee because of pressure from the wealthy sportsman and certain members of the Senate Resources and Environmental Committee (Senate Chairman Steve Bair) so that new commissioners could be appointed who would support the wealthy sportsman and Steve Bairs’ position on auction tags. Right now the number of tags is limited to two big horn sheep tags, but the wealthy sportsman and legislators wants an increase to 12 tags that cover all the big game species in Idaho. This will set a precedent which will allow the Senate of the State of Idaho to require additional tags whenever the politically motivated legislators want to increase or change the policy of how big game is managed in Idaho. At all Idaho Department of Fish and Game public meetings around the State of Idaho the public opinion of increasing auction tags has met with intense opposition by the majority of attendees.
The word floating around the State House is that our core group of esteemed Senators would very much like to end up with a system of auctioning tags like that used in Utah. The Utah system has disenfranchised the average citizen of Utah from their ability to hunt big game in the State of Utah. They have been priced out of the market by a system that gives tags to organizations like the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, who then turn around and auction off hundreds of coveted tags at public events, such as the Salt Lake City Sportsmen’s Expo each year. Sixty percent of the funds raised are retained by the organization and forty percent is turned over to the Utah Game and Fish for the management of the wildlife. All hunting in Utah is now controlled hunt only. A person starting to hunt in Utah for elk at the age of 12 could only draw four elk tags in that state in his lifetime, if he is able to draw an elk tag at all, unless he has the money to buy one of the auction tags!
Is this what we want for us and our children and all future generations? There is a lot of wildlife of trophy quality in Utah. In spite of this fact, many Utah hunters are turning to Idaho because there are no opportunities left that they can afford in Utah. If we establish this kind of system in Idaho, we will quickly end up like Utah. The problem is we will not have anywhere to turn when this happens here. Do not doubt for a minute that this will happen. The plans have already been set in motion by the Idaho Senate Resources and Environmental Committee chaired by Steve Bair! The wealthy sportsman has been spending a lot of money on political donations at the state level in order to get increased auction tags in Idaho as well as influence the appointment of Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners sympathetic to his views.
When the 1938 Initiative passed it, was specifically for the purpose of removing the management of the wildlife of Idaho from the political arena. Since that time the Legislature has been trying to regain control of the resource. It is time for every hunter and angler to notify the Legislature that we will not accept their interference with the operation of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. There have been no problems in the past with the management by this commission, which has been following the mandate given in 1938. That is 78 years of operation. This is not the time to politicize our wildlife management. The only thing that we can do to stop hijacking of our state’s resource for the enrichment of the few and to the detriment of all of the citizens of this State is to let these self-serving legislators hear from you individually. Tell them of your opposition of giving any tag to anyone for private sale be they landowners or wealthy sportsmen. You should also target the ringleaders of this atrocity and let them know that when they are next up for election, we will not support them and intend to support their opposition at the next election. This is ultimately the only language that these multi-term self-righteous legislators understand. Please do not sit by and allow this to happen. Act now! I was president of the Safari Club Idaho Chapter during the Bear Initiative of 1996 and very active in the defeat of that attempt to end bear hunting in Idaho. I did not defeat the initiative by myself. I had the support of the hunters, trappers and all sportsmen of this state when this happened. Together we blew the animal rights activists out of the State of Idaho. We beat them so badly that they have not come back to Idaho since their 1996 defeat! Sportsmen of Idaho beat the state animal rights organization, The Humane Society of the United States, by a whopping 67% to 33% of the popular vote! We can do it again working together.
I am asking each of you to investigate immediately what I am saying. Go on the internet to the Idaho Wildlife Federation website and see for yourself what is happening. While you are at it please access the letter to Sen. Brent Hill, President Pro Tempore, which was signed by 15 past Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners asking for the removal of Senator Steve Bair as Chairman of the Senate Resources and Environmental Committee to find out the truth of what has been going on for the past two years. If Idaho hunters and fishers do not step up now, there can be no doubt of the outcome for future generations of Idaho sportsmen. I may not have too many seasons left in me, but I do have children and grandchildren who I want to have the same opportunities that I did.
I realize that most of you have never heard of me. That you may not believe what I am saying or think that I have my own gain at heart. I have devoted many years of my charitable time to organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (15 years), Idaho Wildlife Council (7 years), Safari Club Idaho Chapter (20 years), Southeastern Idaho Mule Deer Foundation (15 years), and the National Wild Turkey Foundation (12 years). I am a 70 year native of Idaho and during that time I have hunted the length and breadth of this State.
Dave Capell is a longtime Pocatello resident and a graduate of Pocatello High School and Idaho State University. He is a former Army captain and has been an accountant with the firm Engleson, Capell & Engleson for the past 43 years.