BOISE – For the first time since 1974, the Idaho Senate has rejected the governor’s nominee for a slot on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, voting 19-16 against confirming Joan Hurlock, only the second woman ever to serve on the panel.
“This lady is not qualified,” Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, told the Senate. He said she lacked the necessary “passion” for hunting and fishing.
Hurlock, of Buhl, held Idaho hunting and fishing licenses several times, but not every year, and didn’t hold one for a nine-year stretch prior to last year. She’s an advocate of youth access to hunting and fishing and an active volunteer.
After the Senate vote, she told the Associated Press, “I have fished throughout my life. … I didn’t know I needed to keep an attendance record.”
Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, who led the opposition to the appointment, told the Senate, “If you haven’t shared the experiences, I don’t think you can make the correct decisions.”
Backers rallied for Hurlock in the Senate debate, however, which stretched for more than two hours, running through the lunch hour and forcing a two-day delay in a planned Lincoln Day commemorative ceremony.
Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpelier, said it’s not the Senate’s job to ensure that the governor has selected the best candidate for a position, because that would require senators to interview all the candidates. Instead, he said, senators must determine that a qualified applicant has been properly chosen. Hurlock was the unanimous pick of a seven-member selection committee. “In fact, she brings some very unique qualifications to the position,” Tippets said.
He noted that Hurlock is a lifetime NRA member, a past member of Ducks Unlimited, a former police officer who holds a degree in forensic science, and an advocate of youth hunting and fishing who’s taken her children fishing for years. Tippets said to be a good Fish and Game commissioner, “I don’t think a lifetime of hunting and fishing necessarily qualifies you” by itself.
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said, “I know a fella that has a real passion for hunting and fishing, and I wouldn’t want him on the Fish and Game Commission under any circumstances. His passion for hunting is such that he’s received a lifetime ban, because his passion leads him to violate court orders telling him not to hunt. That’s not the basis on which we select commissioners.”
Among the five female senators, only Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, voted against the nomination. Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, told the Senate it’s time to “bring 50 percent of Idaho citizens – women – into the mix” and bring a “new perspective” to the Fish and Game Commission.
Since the commission was created in 1938 by citizen initiative, the only woman prior to Hurlock to serve on it was Nancy Hadley of Sandpoint, who served from 1997 to 2005.
The last Fish and Game nominee to be rejected was Robert Thomas of Coeur d’Alene, an appointee of then-Gov. Cecil Andrus who was voted down in 1974 after senators labeled him an “extreme environmentalist.”
Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, chairman of the Senate Resources Committee – which earlier voted 5-4 against the nomination - said he’d met with Hurlock and couldn’t say all he knows. “Just trust us,” he told the Senate. “There’s a fear of some environmentalism involved here. … The sportsmen are worried. … We represent the people and that’s who I’m getting the word from.”
After the rejection, Gov. Butch Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian, said, “We’re obviously disappointed.” He said Otter wants to talk with Senate leaders before making any further comments.