By Zach Widner, Northwest States Senior Manager
On August 24, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to finalize a recreation policy Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Idaho Land Board to protect access for hunting, angling, trapping, and other forms of recreational access on Idaho’s state endowment lands.
The Land Board, which consists of the Idaho Secretary of State, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Controller, and Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Butch Otter, also voted to unanimously approve the MOA earlier in the week.
Under the MOA, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) will pay the Idaho Department of Lands 25 cents per acre on approximately 2.3 million acres of state endowment lands in order to ensure that public access is maintained on these lands. Idaho’s state endowment lands are managed to provide revenue for public schools, and while the Idaho Land Board had historically kept these lands open for recreation, there was no formal policy in place ensuring continued access.
Sportsmen and women had raised the concern that, in the absence of a formal Land Board policy, and due to the constitutional obligation for state endowment lands to raise money for public education, there remained a significant possibility of individuals securing exclusive use recreational leases to many parcels of state endowment lands, effectively cutting off public access to the lands in question. This new agreement ensures that these lands will remain open for hunting, angling, and other forms of recreation, in perpetuity.
Funding for the payments from IDFG to the Idaho Department of Lands will come from both existing access revenues derived from the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses, and through matching funds provided via the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson Fund), which apportions revenues derived from the sale of firearms and ammunition back to states for access programs, hunter education, and other uses. IDFG will also be providing the equivalent of two full-time senior conservation officers to patrol and provide fish and wildlife enforcement on state endowment lands.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?