IDAHO'S WILD OUTDOORS
By Senator Mike Crapo
This time of year, many Idahoans take to the woods and fields to fill their elk, deer, bear, or mountain lion tags as well as hunting waterfowl and upland game. Whether bow or rifle hunting, Idahoans pack up gear, ammunition and supplies to spend time enjoying breathtaking natural resources with family and friends-the very reason why many choose to call Idaho home.
Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway are just a few of the famous figures who have joined us locals hunting or fishing in Idaho's world-class mountains, fields and streams. These activities generate critical local tourism dollars, and licensing fees provide for habitat and game management and conservation. In 2006 alone, 186,000 hunters spent $271.6 million, and 361,000 fishermen and women spent $295.3 million. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) anticipates receiving $32 million in general license revenue for FY2007: 42 percent from residents; 58 percent from nonresidents. License fees, in part, fund monitoring wildlife populations; habitat management; depredation control for landowners; programs such as elk, mule deer and upland bird ecology; research on new and improved management strategies; acquisition and improvement of habitat; and emergency winter feeding.
Idaho also realizes financial benefits from federal excise taxes levied on hunting. Annually, nearly $200 million goes to state agencies to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands open to hunters, and hunter education and safety classes. Through 2005, proceeds from the Federal Duck Stamp had purchased over five million acres of habitat for the refuge system, land that is usually open to hunting.
The economic benefit to local communities and the state is undeniable, not to mention the education that these experiences provide. As people young and old learn to respect and appreciate the immense beauty around them, they come to support responsible and fair resource management. This provides Idahoans the opportunity to explore collaborative efforts toward common access and management goals in the context of federal land and environmental regulations. Collaborative efforts of this nature are already bearing fruit across Idaho:
• I've been pleased to help facilitate the Owyhee Initiative, an historic land management effort seven years in the making that has brought together local, state, federal, tribal and private interests in a collaborative plan for millions of acres in Owyhee County. If codified, ranchers will be able to plan for subsequent generations, off-road vehicle users and sportsmen will have access assured and wilderness will be established. Tribal cultural resources will be protected and local, state and federal government agencies will have structure to assist their joint management of the region--all within the context of the preservation of environmental and economic health.
• Collaboration on sportsmen's access has been facilitated by IDFG. Under the Access Yes! program (supported by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Idaho sportsmen and private landowners), 108 lease agreements have opened 634,956 private and 726,320 public acres to sportsmen and women.
A recent Idaho visitor wrote in the New York Times: "I drove once until there was no more road, and then hiked, with two of my brothers, until there was no more trail…we found a deep pool at the base of a waterfall, hard by a grove of ancient cedars. We caught fish until our arms were tired, and then watched the night sky theatrics. There was river music, white noise for sleep. And I promised never to tell the exact location…"
He has captured a bit of the mystery and wonder of Idaho in these few sentences; something that Idahoans enjoying the great Idaho outdoors this fall know well.