Influential Fish and Game director Conley dies

Jerry Conley the longest serving director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, died Oct. 5 after a long fight with brain cancer.

Conley, 71, led the department from 1980 to 1996, a tumultuous time that included the killing of two conservation officers, a standoff with the Nez Perce tribe over treaty fishing and the beginning of funding for non-game species. Conley organized Citizens Against Poaching, the Idaho Wildlife Congress and other programs to get the public involved in fish and wildlife management.

During his tenure turkeys and walleyes were introduced into Idaho's woods and waters and the MK Nature Center was built.

“Jerry's tenure marked the proudest and most innovative days of the department, and the apex of abundance of wildlife in the State of Idaho,” said Bill Goodnight, who served as Conley’s communications director.

Previously Conley had been the youngest fish and wildlife department director in the country in Kansas at 35. After he left Idaho he returned to his native state of Missouri to guide its department until 2002.

Conley was a fisheries biologist who got both his bachelors and master degree at the University of Missouri. He began his career in Utah and later Iowa in fisheries management.

I covered Conley for 11 years and joined him in the field several times including a horsepack trip into the Palisades roadless area in eastern Idaho. He was a savvy and creative bureaucrat who wasn't afraid to stand up against a political establishment that often demonized his agency.

My ecology and wildlife management professor at college in Wisconsin was his college roommate. They had both learned from Richard Anderson, a pioneer in the research that led to trophy fish management programs.

JerryJerry Conley with Former Idaho F&G Director Cal Groen and me at a wolf forum in 2010.(Fish and Game Photo)

Conley led fish and wildlife agencies at a time when the environmental movement was changing the makeup and expectations of the agencies. These brought new conflicts with traditional resource users like farmers, ranchers and loggers.

But Conley managed to give hunter and anglers more opportunity. That why he pushed turkey reintroduction and planting walleye in Salmon Falls reservoir.

It wasn’t long after he took over as director in Idaho that Claude Dallas killed wardens Bill Pogue and Conley Elms, Jan 5, 1981 in a desolate campsite in Owyhee County. In the aftermath, Conley organized Citizens Against Poaching to help build support and help for the agency’s law enforcement program.

After the emergency closing of fishing to protect broodstocks at Rapid River Hatchery prompted conflict with the Nez Perce Tribe Conley eventually reached an agreement with the tribe that led eventually to cooperative management programs.

He is survived by his wife Janet, a son Mark, a daughter Wendy, a brother and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held this Friday, at the Cathedral of the Rockies, at 1:30pm. A reception will follow. Arrangements are by Summers Funeral Homes, Ustick Chapel, Meridian.

Proofreading...??? Editors???

Rocky - You really need to take the time to proof and edit your stories. Several places where commas are needed, run-on sentences and fix things like this:

"He was a smart about politics and a creative bureaucrat who wasn't afraid to stand up against a political establishment that often demonized his agency"

worse than death

A politician's, or anyone for that matter, last wish should be, "Don't let Rocky Barker write my eulogy".

updates become savvy

It's hilarious to see the Rock update the one error pointed out to him and continue to ignore the other 50 errors in the post.

I'll fix this one. I'm pretty sure the rest of it is correct.

What a couple of Richards

With a capital D. Why don't you try writing something for publication on a deadline. I haven't even seen a printed 250 word LTE from either of you let alone going for the 600 words allowed in the "readers opinion". Stop picking on Rocky over the minutia until your body of work equals 1% of his.

2% is the goal

So if ones "body of work" exceeds 1% of his, it's okay to pick on the Rock?

Thank you for your authorization.
When someone ask why I pick on the Rock, I'll tell em ericn1300 said it was okay as long as my "body of work" is more than 1% of the Rock's.

Btw RicharDs is not funny.
You shouldn't call people names until your body of work equals 1% of the person you are calling a name.

Conley was a good soul and will truly be missed.


Leave his memory the he11 alone.

RIP Jerry. Be a long time before we find a replacement for you.

It sure has been a long time since Idaho has a had a Fish & Game Director of Jerry Conley's caliber. Wasn't it the "Butcher of the Boise" Steve Mealy that came in after Jerry? Since then we have had "Directors" that have been nothing more than shills to the ag industry or political appointee hacks and now look where Idaho's Fish & Game populations are. Sure do miss the good old days Jerry. Sure glad I got to experience the great wildlife opportunities, hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and enjoyment in what was once the Great State of Idaho and when you were the last real IDFG Director. RIP Jerry.

Night and Day

Same topic- different writers.

Betsy wrote:
Jerry Conley, the longest-serving director of Idaho's Department of Fish & Game, has died at age 71. Conley, who headed Idaho Fish & Game from 1980 to 1996, then became head of the Conservation Department for his native state of Missouri; he retired in 2002 and returned to Idaho. Among the initiatives he spearheaded as director in Idaho were the successful introduction of wild turkeys to the state; the nongame income tax checkoff; Citizens Against Poaching; the Idaho Wildlife Congress; and the MK Nature Center, which he continued to visit regularly with his grandchildren almost until the day he died.

Great example of good copy,

whereas Rocky's copy is a good example of a bad political joke at the expense of the deceased.

What's the matter? Couldn't get your own outdoors writing job?

"Betsy's" e-mail just cut and pasted the obituary. Rocky knows his topic and writes his own stuff. The Statesman is lucky to have him.

Jerry Conley was a high-quality guy

who earned the respect of sportsmen and women in Idaho, working hard to protect and preserve Idaho fish, game, and wildlife. Salut, Jerry, we'll miss you.

Best wishes to his family during this tough time.

No fishing inside the hatchery.

"After the emergency closing of fishing to protect broodstocks at Rapid River Hatchery"

What does that even mean?

I would expect something like this from Katie Curic, a city boy like Popkey, or a journalist not covering "the environment" and salmon issues. Actually though, I do expect it from the Rock!

Packhorse - yes.
Horsepack - no.
Warden - caps & 8th grade stuff.
Lots of other junk. It's too bad.