HUNTING — The amount of money Idaho is taking in through the sale of nonresident deer and elk tags is down nearly $3 million from its peak in 2008, state wildlife officials say.
Jim Unsworth, deputy director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the agency has put in place a six-month hiring freeze on all open positions, eliminated at least two high level positions, and is looking at cutting some programs, the Associated Press reports.
He said the economic downturn is why fewer out-of-state hunters are heading to Idaho. Most of the agency’s money comes from the sale of tags, licenses and permits.
“It’s hard to put a finger on specifically what’s not happening,” Unsworth told the Post Register. “What’s happening is just less of everything. At some level, somewhere, something’s not getting done, and eventually the public’s going to notice it.”
Unsworth said items that could be cut include aerial surveys of big-game populations. That could lead, he said, to a reduction in the number of deer or elk that game managers would allow to be killed because regional supervisors tend to be more conservative when setting harvest numbers if they don’t have reliable estimates about herd populations.
He said the result is a downward spiral in revenue.
“You do put yourself in a spin,” he said. “At some point you become irrelevant politically. The great old tried and true ‘hit the nonresidents up for revenue’ isn’t working.”
Besides state revenue from out-of-state hunters falling, Idaho guides have seen fewer clients and small communities are losing revenue from fewer hunters.