Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game now owns the 700-acre Hammer Flats plateau west of Lucky Peak that is critical winter range for mule deer.
This critical purchase, made in cooperation with the City of Boise and thanks, in part to dollars from the Foothills levy is a major conservation victory for the state. It was paid for by the Bonneville Power Administration with mitigation dollars for federal dams, paid not by taxpayers but electric ratepayers in the Northwest.
It was not sportsman dollars, like many of the millions of dollars that keep Fish and Game protecting fish and wildlife. You might remember that Gov. Butch Otter said when the city made the purchase he would keep Fish and Game from following through if hunting were not allowed on the windswept parcel.
The view of many hunters that since only their dollars go to managing game they have a special right to it has made it harder to show the critical role they played in wildlife management restoring many species over the course of the 20th Century. Many other taxpayers, ratepayers and private donors have contributed to the cause too.
And contrary to popular belief, it gets federal tax dollars that don't come sportsman's purchases. Those are likely to tighten.
When hunters thought that only their voices were relevant to game management it diminished the voices speaking out for the wildlife they love. Now as the overall population rises and the numbers of hunters drops, their biggest threat is not wolves or their supporters, its apathy and a drop in the concern about wild things in general.
Frankly they will need all the friends they can get as the federal government cuts back spending overall. They will need new sources of funding beyond hunting and fishing licenses.
That's why the Idaho Department of Fish Game is sponsoring a Wildlife Summit Aug. 24-26. Otter will be there along with speakers from all sides of the spectrum.
One of the featured speakers is Shane Mahoney, a biologist and writer from Newfoundland.