It’s “a risk,” but one worth taking, says Virgil Moore, head of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game about next month’s Wildlife Summit.
Held in Boise and six satellite locations simultaneously over three days, it will bring together wildlife and wildland lovers of all kinds at a time when the perception — and certainly truth on a few fronts — is that we’re at each others’ throats.
We’re sending our Nampa-based hunter/angler/executive chef/writer, Randy King, to attend and he will report back in an upcoming issue.
The crux is that IDFG is looking for ways to bridge the gap between growing public expectations about wildlife management, declining funding and the way forward — it’s an attempt to engage a wider support base than strictly hunters and anglers.
That can be a touchy proposition for sportsmen. We traditionally see our relationship with fish and wildlife agencies as one in which we’re customers who pay for services, casting a gimlet eye towards those who don’t directly pay their share but expect a say and a parking spot at wildlife area and river accesses.
But this isn’t 1973 anymore. Like elsewhere in the West, Idaho’s human population has skyrocketed, its animals are facing pressures they haven’t in the past, their habitat often wildly altered, new recreations have sprung up.
“I know from talking to mainstream conservation groups in this state, our hunting and fishing groups and publics, there’s huge support for taking this risk,” Moore says in a YouTube video, “and I believe they’ll be there with us all the way through.”
In a piece picked up by the Coeur d’Alene Press earlier this week, he writes of the Summit, “It is neither a referendum nor a vote on any policy or program. It is instead an opportunity to explore our common ground to foster a renewed enthusiasm and commitment for wildlife conservation in Idaho.”
Perhaps symbolic of the divisiveness between wildlife advocates of an orange bent and wildlife advocates of a green bent, this week saw the split between RMEF and the namesake family of its Olaus Murie elk conservation award after the famed wapiti biologist’s family called on the Elk Foundation to cease using his name because of the organization’s increasingly hardline stands on wolves.
However, in an article this morning, Rocky Barker, writer for the Idaho Statesman, says that RMEF head David Allen “was incorrectly quoted as calling for killing wolves from the air and gassing them in their dens,” one of the things that led up to the split with the Muries.
Barker adds that RMEF is supportive of the summit — indeed, they along with the Mule Deer Foundation and the Safari Club are among the sponsors — as is Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife.
“I told Virgil we were going to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem,” Allen said to Barker.
“We hope the wildlife summit is an opportunity to bring all sides together to promote scientific management of all native species,” Stone told him.
They are otherwise on opposite sides of the wolf issue.
An IDFG spokesman acknowledged the challenge of bringing everyone together, but called it “worthwhile” and “critical for the future.”
Back on YouTube, Moore says, “As a wildlife professional, I have to be able to deal with the change to ensure that that heritage of fish and wildlife in the state is available for viewers, hunters, anglers and everyone else out there who cares about it.”
It would be extraordinarily naive to say that we’ll all ever go watch the blackbirds in the marshes and taste the venison together, but at least someone is trying to at least get us talking and mapping the course forward.
The future of what we all want — lots of critters, lots of wild lands for them — increasingly depends on it.
For more on the Aug. 24-26 summit, go here.