BOISE – For the first time since 1974, the Idaho Senate rejected the governor’s nominee to a seat on the state’s Fish and Game Commission.
Joan Hurlock has served on the panel since her appointment in July, but the Senate voted 19-16 against confirming her. She was just the second woman to serve on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
“This lady is not qualified,” state Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, told the Senate. He said Hurlock lacked the necessary “passion” for hunting and fishing to represent the interests of Idaho sportsmen.
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.
“I have fished throughout my life. … I didn’t know I needed to keep an attendance record,” Hurlock told the Associated Press after the Senate vote.
State 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.”
Debate on her confirmation went on for more than two hours, and Hurlock’s supporters rallied on her behalf.
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.
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 that 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 Idaho’s 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.”