A southeastern Idaho sportsmen’s group is advising Gov. Phil Batt against using money from hunting and fishing fees to help Idaho comply with the federal Clean Water Act.
In response to concerns by the Region 5 Wildlife Council, Batt indicated he only intends to use the Idaho Fish and Game Department’s employees to help fulfill U.S. District Judge William Dwyer’s September ruling.
“The idea is not to raid funds,” Batt’s spokesman Frank Lockwood said. “It’s to coordinate resources. That’s manpower - not necessarily money - to meet the judge’s order.”
Dwyer ordered Idaho to study and develop standards to clean up 962 waterways within five years.
Lockwood said Batt wants all state agencies to contribute toward Dwyer’s mandate; Fish and Game fisheries biologists should prove useful for research.
Batt plans to outline his plan during his budget address to the Legislature next week.
“It’s safe to say that the natural resources departments are all going to need to pitch in,” Lockwood said.
Wildlife Council secretary Bill Davidson said Batt’s hands-off approach toward Fish and Game’s money is wise.
The council worries shifting sportsmen money to Clean Water Act compliance work which falls under the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality’s responsibility would jeopardize Fish and Game’s federal funding.
That is because in order for Fish and Game to receive nearly $18 million annually in sporting goods excise tax money, federal rules say 25 percent of that amount in matching dollars from Idaho hunting and fishing fees must stay with Fish and Game.
The federal funds are used for species research and habitat improvement.
Davidson criticized legislators for failing to consistently support the water work when there were signs for 20 years it was coming.
“It should have been done,” Davidson said. “They’ve known they had this obligation, and they’ve avoided it. Now, it’s down to a court-ordered, five-year time span.”