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Eye On Boise

Second-ever female F&G commissioner faces confirmation fight in Senate

Controversy over Gov. Butch Otter’s appointment of Joan Hurlock of Buhl to the Idaho Fish & Game Commission is delaying the Senate confirmation hearing on the appointment, with Senate Resources Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, scheduling a hearing tomorrow for Otter’s other June 2012 appointee, Will Naillon of Challis, but not for Hurlock. You can read my full story here at

“At this point, I’d rather not talk about it,” Pearce said this afternoon. “Give us a little time. … We don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s up in the air still.”

Hurlock, a former forensic chemist for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms explosives and arson unit and a former member of the U.S. Capitol Police, is the owner of the Body Works fitness center in Buhl and the daughter of a California game warden. She’s been active in civic and sportsman groups in the Magic Valley, according to Otter’s office. When she was appointed to the commission in June, she said in a statement, “I’m now looking forward to being an advocate for getting our youth more involved in hunting, fishing and the great outdoors in Idaho.”

But some Magic Valley sportsmen’s groups have been organizing against her confirmation, saying they favored two other candidates who they see as more experienced and avid hunters and fishermen.

Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, said, “It’s been a six-month ordeal and I’m kinda right in the middle of it. I really would rather not get into personalities and reasons. We’ve all been in and talked with the governor.” Said Heider, “I think that Sen. Pearce will hold the appointment at his desk,” preventing it from reaching the full Senate.

But Pearce said he’s looked into it, and he doesn’t have that option. “I’m told that I can’t put it in my drawer,” Pearce said. “It really belongs to the committee of the whole of the Senate, so one way or another, it will come before the Senate.”

Pearce said both the governor and the Legislature have roles in the appointment process. “I’ve got the Constitution out and read it,” he said. “It’s a check and balance in the system.”

Hurlock, who has been serving on the commission since July 1, is only the second woman ever to serve on Idaho’s Fish & Game Commission, which was created in 1938 by the first citizen initiative passed in the state. Nancy Hadley of Sandpoint was the first; she served from 1997 to 2005.

Jack Oyler of Filer, a board member of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, was a member of the panel that interviewed the candidates for the two commission openings this year, and he’s opposing Hurlock’s confirmation. He said he had several long conversations with her a month before the interviews, and concluded that she had little knowledge or experience with hunting, fishing and wildlife management policy. “This is not a woman thing with me, it’s qualifications,” he said.

Hurlock said, “My dad was a Fish & Game officer, so I’ve been involved with Fish & Game issues pretty much my entire life.” She said she got her first Idaho hunting license in 2002, and has had both fishing and hunting licenses over the years, though not every year. She learned about the commission opening when she was out helping with habitat restoration, planting bitterbrush in the King Hill area after a wildfire. “I have a thorough knowledge of all of the various wildlife management plans,” Hurlock said. She accompanied her 13-year-old son on his first hunt this fall, in which he got a deer; she said enhancing hunting and fishing opportunities for youth is among her top priorities. “That’s why I live in this state,” she said. “And I do know that I have the full support of the other commissioners.”

Bonnie Butler, a top aide to Otter who also served on the interview panel, said, “The governor’s office is fully behind Joan Hurlock. She was chosen just like Will Naillon, through the process. He’s talked with her and he’s told her he supports her fully, and as long as she wants to be a commissioner, he supports her.”

This afternoon, Hurlock met with Pearce in his Senate office; afterward, she said, “I don’t think it will be tomorrow, but he did agree that I can have a hearing, and he will be in touch with me as to when that will be.” She added, “I actually have a lot of support in my region for my appointment. But it’s usually the loud minority that gets heard and not the silent majority, I guess.”

Said Hurlock: “I just would really like the opportunity to have a hearing, so I can go and present my qualifications before the committee, and just be heard and given a fair hearing one way or the other.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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