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Idaho Fish and Game Commission marks 75th anniversary

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT -- It was 75 years ago today that Idaho’s first successful voter initiative created the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and placed the Fish and Game Department under its authority.

Though Idaho Fish and Game was created by the Legislature in 1899, for the first four decades the agency was run by a state game warden – most of them political appointees. No knowledge of wildlife or game management was required to be appointed. And when new wardens took over, they often replaced the deputies, regardless of their qualifications.

Using a 1912 amendment to the Idaho constitution that allows voters to put a proposed law on the ballot and enact it by majority vote, a group of sportsmen drafted a petition based on earlier proposed legislation.

The 1938 petition called for a five-member commission of people with a demonstrated interest in wildlife and no more than three from any political party.

Commissioners would hire a fish and game director and would have the authority to determine season and bag limits. Employees would be hired on merit and could be fired only for cause.

The initiative passed with a majority in every county – 118,000 votes to 37,442 – 76 percent of the total votes cast.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department is featuring on its website a weekly post about the history of the state's wildlife management starting today. Click on the 75 Years logo.

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Rich Landers writes and photographs stories and columns for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including Outdoors feature sections on Sunday and Thursday.