By Marc Cooke, Wolves of the Rockies, Stevensville
I recently attended the three-day Wildlife Summit in Boise, Idaho. This Wildlife Summit was conceived to achieve several goals. A steady downturn in the number of U.S. hunters has forced Idaho to look for alternative sources to adjust for this continuing decline in revenue dollars. The summit was equally an attempt by Idaho Fish & Game to reach out to wildlife advocates and the non consumptive wildlife enthusiast. Third, an attempt to gain some positive public opinion which has taken a big hit because of the bloodbath that continually prevails in their heavy handed approach in managing wolves and other predators.
The Wildlife Summit was high tech. Each region had their IDFG commissioner and several other representatives of Idaho Fish & Game available to talk to and voice your concerns and comments. They were held in local hotels in each region and had real time polling capabilities for all the polling questions asked during the summit.
There were guest speakers that spoke about wildlife, humans and their involvement with and concern for wildlife, and their vision of what they were currently attempting and what needs to be achieved to aid in maintaining the balance of Idaho’s wildlife. Jim Posewitz of Orion: The Hunters Institute, Toni Hardesty, Director, The Nature Conservancy – Idaho, Tara Teel, Associate Professor – Colorado State University and Shane Mahoney – Conservation Vision, Inc.
While IDGF Director Moore said that it was his desire to reach out to all interested parties, his actions fell short of this statement. The catch phrase of the summit was “Idaho’s Wildlife Belongs To You.” However, only residents of Idaho were allowed to participate in the polling questions. In addition, the lobby was set up with booths and tables for people to browse. Idaho Fish & Game had tables that encouraged you to converse with Representatives of IDFG. Other organizations allowed to have booths set up and promote membership were Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International. What was quietly deafening, and very disappointing, was the lack of conservation groups being represented at this wildlife summit. It became all too clear that the organizations that were present were hand selected to control the message and outcome of the Wildlife Summit. It should also be noted that not only people in Idaho or the Northern Rockies listened in and viewed on line; there were many people from all over the country that participated. This is certainly confirmation of how important wildlife is to everyone, not just those of us who live in the Northern Rockies.
Sadly it is all too clear that IDFG Director Moore’s comments: “There are many ways to enjoy wildlife,” “All Idahoans have a vested interest in wildlife.” And “Idaho has a participatory form of government,” failed miserably to convey what was his intention: inclusion of all interested parties and organizations of all wildlife, to include wolves and other predators, not only hunters and ranchers, and the protection of elk and cattle. Why were there no other conservation organizations represented? I know personally of one organization that requested participation, but was politely refused.
One positive item did surface from this summit: Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks has a real opportunity. Montana needs to step up to the plate and organize a Wildlife Summit that truly represents all interested individuals and organizations. Not just RMEF, SCI and other consumptive hunting organizations, but non consumptive organizations like Defenders, Montana Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, and Alliance For the Wild Rockies to name but a few worthy organization. Montana needs to deliver what Idaho deliberately fell short of – equal representation at the table for all invested individuals and organizations. The Public Trust Doctrine requires nothing short of that!