WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT -- The director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department has announced his retirment.
Cal Groen will leave his post as the agency's top man at the end of March and return to Lewiston, where he plans to spend much of his time hunting and fishing, according to today's story in the Lewiston Tribune.
Groen, 64, officially announced his retirement this morning at 10:15.
Read on for the rest of the story by Lewiston Outdoors writer Eric Barker:
"Four years ago, I made a commitment to the commission to be director for four years, and I promised my wife. Those four years are up," he said Monday. "I'm looking forward to entering a new phase in my life."
Prior to becoming director in 2007, Groen served as the supervisor of the Lewiston-based Clearwater Region. He and his wife, Rebecca, have kept their home in Lewiston and long planned to retire here.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back to the Lewiston area, where I love the country and the hunting and fishing and the friends I have in Lewiston, and rejoining that little church with the reader board on Southway." He is a member of the Church of Christ on Southway Avenue. Groen said he also looks forward to helping his son, who is establishing an orphanage in the east African nation of Tanzania.
He counts as accomplishments making the department more efficient and effective in a time of tough budgets, promoting youth outdoor activity, establishing five new family fishing areas, rehabilitating wildlife habitat across the state and leading a dedicated group of employees.
"I really feel good about the department's strong leadership, our dedicated employees, and we have a very hard-working commission that has a heart for wildlife and they want to do the best we can."
Under his direction the department has also moved to simplify the sometimes complex hunting and fishing regulations and tried to remove wolves from federal protection. He said the wolf issue has been bittersweet.
"We planned and conducted the first regulated wolf hunt in the Lower 48 and it was a very successful hunt."
But following the 2009-10 hunting season, wolves were returned to federal protection by court order where they remain today.
Groen is also disappointed he was not able to broaden financial support for the department. The agency is funded primarily through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and does not get a share of the general tax fund. He had hoped to establish some sort of access or "pay-to-play" fee for non-hunters and anglers that recreate on land managed by the department.
"Over half the recreation on our wildlife areas is by the non-hunting and fishing-license participants. It's the user-pay concept," he said.
Losing three employees to helicopter crashes was the most difficult thing he had to deal with during his 38-year career in wildlife management. Last fall, fisheries biologists Larry Barrett and Dani Schiff were killed in a crash. In 2000, wildlife biologist Michael Gratson was killed in another helicopter crash.
Groen was cited for trespassing during an elk hunting trip last fall. He said it was not intentional and he and his hunting partners believed they had permission to be on the private property.
"I made a mistake, we took care of it and the lesson I learned is be careful," he said.
Idaho Fish and Game Commission Chairman Wayne Wright of Twin Falls praised Groen's leadership.
"I think Cal has been an outstanding director for the department. I think all of us as a commission have really appreciated what he has done and personally I really appreciate his integrity. I think that the department has advanced tremendously under his leadership."
Wright said the commission has a list of candidates to replace Groen, including several who currently work for the department.
Groen has worked for the department for 21 years. He has also worked for fish and wildlife management agencies in Washington and Kansas.