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Guv takes on feds over Lake Lowell recreation

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, on behalf of the State of Idaho, has submitted comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with the state's “strong opposition” to the proposed new management plan for the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, which would restrict some longtime recreational uses, from powerboating to kitesailing. “Although it is now a wildlife refuge, wildlife and recreation have co-existed with irrigation throughout the life of the Deer Flat project,” Otter wrote. “In fact, irrigation was the original purpose of Lake Lowell. As a Bureau of Reclamation project, preservation of wildlife habitat is secondary to the water rights owned by irrigators.”

There's more. Otter asserts that state law supersedes wildlife habitat at the refuge, though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says the purpose of a national wildlife refuge is “to serve as a refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife.” As is his wont, Otter directly takes on the federal government. “Make no mistake: The responsibility and jurisdiction to manage fish and resident wildlife belong to the State of Idaho,” he writes. You can read his full letter here, which includes this comment, “If the current use of the manmade reservoir, which includes a multitude of recreation activities, has produced such a high-quality wildlife refuge, then it makes sense for those activities to continue.”

Attached to Otter's letter, at the same link, is a five-page detailed comment from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, which isn't as confrontational, says Fish & Game “anticipate(s) a cooperative working relationship with Refuge staff in managing fish and wildlife,” and calls for much more restricted no-wake zones, developing additional fishing access at Gott's Point and other areas, and addresses hunting and other issues. Also attached is a two-page formal comment from Idaho State Parks & Rec, backing continuing current management strategies and calling for much more limited no-wake zones. “Restricting boating access would severely impact Canyon County boaters,” the state parks department wrote.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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