Fish and Game shows its history in Idaho

December 25, 2013 

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the state’s successful voter initiative creating the commission and its professional staffers, and how it forever altered wildlife management in the state.

Go to fishandgame.gov and click on the 75 years logo to get a glimpse into that history, complete with photos and videos.

The website offers a timeline of hunting and fishing in the state, history at a glance, a photo gallery, vintage videos, historic writings and even wild game recipes.

The photo gallery has pictures of old-time sturgeon fishing, women wading and fishing in full dresses, stocking alpine lakes with pack horses and milk cans, old-time hunting camps and even Idaho’s first wild turkey release.

Old videos show salmon trapping, sage grouse monitoring, waterfowl areas, big-game range and goose trapping.

Though Idaho Fish and Game was created by the state’s Legislature in 1899, for the first 40 years the agency was run by a politically appointed state game warden.

No wildlife or game management experience was required to be appointed. When a new warden took over, he often replaced the existing deputies with his own staff, regardless of their qualifications.

For example, between 1899 and 1913, Idaho had six governors and seven game wardens.

Using a 1912 amendment to the Idaho constitution that allowed voters to put a proposed law on the ballot and be enacted by a majority vote, a group of sportsmen drafted a petition.

The petition passed with a majority in every county — 118,000 votes to 37,442 — and was favored in 76 percent of the statewide votes cast.

The citizens initiative that changed the department called for a five-member commission of people with an interest in wildlife management, and no more than three from any political party could be on the commission.

It mandated that commissioners hire a Fish and Game director who would have the authority to determine hunting and fishing seasons and bag limits.

Employees of Fish and Game would be hired on merit and could only be fired for cause, rather than each new director firing the staff and replacing them with his own.

The agency is now run by a full-time director who handles the day-to-day operations, and a seven-person commission sets wildlife policy for the state, and sets hunting and fishing seasons and rules based in part by staff recommendations.

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