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Eye On Boise

E. Idaho businessman who sparked F&G fight now says auction tags shouldn’t be mandatory

Eastern Idaho businessman Doug Sayer, who lobbied for two Idaho Fish & Game commissioners to lose their posts for not backing auction tags and set off a firestorm of protest against Senate Resources Chairman Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, for his support of auctioning off hunting tags, now says he doesn't favor making it mandatory that Fish & Game auction off the tags. That's what controversial and unsuccessful legislation that Bair proposed last year would have done. Recently 14 former Idaho Fish & Game commissioners called on legislative leaders to replace Bair as Senate resources chairman, but he was reappointed.

Sayer says he was expressing his personal views, not advocating for the Wild Sheep Foundation, of which he's chairman, and his comments were misunderstood; he also says he still favors more auction tags at the discretion of Fish & Game, but believes that shouldn't be considered in the upcoming legislative session as the focus should be on the department's fee increase proposal. Here's a full report from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:  

Sayer: Auction tags for big game not mandatory 
By Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho (TNS)

The man who lobbied for two Idaho Fish and Game commissioners to lose their jobs for not backing auction tags said he doesn't favor making the tags mandatory.

Doug Sayer of Blackfoot issued a news release Tuesday stating, among other things, his preference that expansion of the state's auction tag program remain in the hands of commissioners. But he also said commissioners should rightfully face political consequences for their decisions.

"I am personally against mandatory auctioning of tags," he said in the release. "The commission should be allowed to use the tools given to it by the Legislature to accomplish its mission. If the governor and the Legislature are not satisfied with the results, they have the right and responsibility to make changes."

An avid hunter, Sayer is chief business officer and owner of Premier Technology, Inc. He became known to hunters across the state this fall after the Idaho Wildlife Foundation obtained and released a stash of emails between key legislators and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office. In one email to Otter's Chief of Staff David Hensely, Sayer recommended that commissioners Mark Doerr of Twin Falls and Will Naillon of Challis not be reappointed to second terms.

The entire seven-member commission had earlier declined to expand auction tag offerings from the one bighorn sheep permit it releases each year to as many as 12 tags for a mix of elk, deer, antelope, moose and mountain goats. Although polling has shown modest support for expansion of the program, hunters have flocked to commission meetings to testify against it. A bill by Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, would force the commission to expand the program. But it died in the committee of which Bair is chairman.

Otter opted not to automatically reappoint Doerr and Naillon when their terms expired last summer, but he did say they could reapply for the jobs. Both declined.

In the news release, Sayer said money generated by auction tags could be leveraged with federal matching funds and become a significant source of income for Fish and Game. He maintains that the department should spend more money on habitat improvement and conservation programs.

"While this type of program may not be appropriate if it means taking meat off someone's table, it is certainly something to consider when attempting to bring money to a department that desperately needs it," Sayer said. "In fact, the careful use of auction tags could actually reduce the need to generate funds from the sale of licenses."

Sayer also noted that it is his "strong personal belief that automatic reappointments to boards and commissions should not generally be the norm. These appointments are some of the tools that the governor has at his disposal to make the executive branch work."

In a telephone interview, Sayer said he understands why some hunters fear the program could grow to the point that fewer tags are available in controlled-hunt drawings. He countered that overexpansion could bring in less money by eroding demand for the tags and suggested that offering only a few might generate more revenue.

"It may be better just to have one each. I think that is up to the commission and the sportsmen to decide."

Sayer believes the legislation that gives the commission the discretion to expand the program could be improved, but said it shouldn't happen this year. Instead, he said the focus during the 2017 legislative session should be on the department's fee-increase bill, something he said he may support.

"I believe the department has come out and said they need additional money, and I believe that is probably correct. I'm in favor of taking a hard look at it. If we can increase the conservation investment, I'm in support of it. I'm anxious to learn more and be involved in the process."

Sayer is chairman of the Wild Sheep Foundation and stressed in his news release that his email exchanges with legislators and the Governor's Office were not related to his position with the group.

"I was not then, nor am I now, speaking for the (Wild Sheep Foundation) on these issues. It is clearer to me now more than ever how the difference between my personal and professional roles can be blurred. I thought that the way I wrote the email, it was clear that I was speaking for myself only. Others read what I said differently, so I will be more clear in the future."


©2016 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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