HUNTING -- Shifting tides in public opinion have prompted the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to postpone a decision on putting up more big-game tags for auction to raise money for wildlife management.
Idaho Fish and Game commissioners on today tabled a proposal to offer big-game tags for auction until their March 9-11 meeting in Boise.
A proposal to increase the number of tags sold to the highest bidder at fundraising auctions garnered support in an unscientific mail survey conducted in late 2015.
However, since the vote on the proposal was publicized last week, as surge of sentiment has emerged to oppose offering more tags.
"Commissioners voted to postpone action because we want more time to visit with sportsmen and better understand how they feel about auction tags before a decision is made," said Commission Chairman Mark Doerr of Twin Falls, according to a media release for Idaho Fish and Game.
The commission also unanimously opposed a Senate bill that would mandate the commission to offer more big-game tags for auction.
"Senate Bill 1236 is printed and available to the public for review," Doerr said. "If SB1236 passes, a March vote by the commission on auction tags could be pre-empted.”
The Idaho Legislature in 2012 gave authority for the commission to auction up to 12 “Governor's Wildlife Partnership” big-game tags, which could include three each for deer, elk and pronghorn and one each for bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat.
Since that legislation passed, the commission has not offered any tags for auction except a bighorn sheep tag that it has auctioned annually since 1988. That tag sold for $90,000 in January.
Based on a recent, random, mail survey of hunters that showed 54 percent agreed with auctioning tags to raise money for wildlife management and sportsmen access, and 51 percent agreed with offering more big-game tags for auction, commissioners asked the department to prepare a proposal that included five new auction tags. The proposal included one each for elk, mule deer, mountain goat, pronghorn and moose.
The commission on Thursday discussed the proposal and the additional written comment received about it, and commissioners will likely decide in March.
Of the written comments received to date about the proposal to auction five more tags, about 75 percent were opposed, Idaho Fish and Game officials said.
Turnout was light at a public meeting Tuesday night in Coeur d'Alene to allow the public to comment directly to an area Fish and Game Commissioner.
"Only six folks showed up," said Chip Corsi, Idaho Fish and Game Panhandle region supervisor."
"Based on participant comments during our hour-long dialog, one individual was pretty dead set against the idea, one individual was pretty supportive, and the others were voicing either conditional support or a 'Not crazy about it but I can live with it …' opinion."
People can continue to comment on the proposed auction tags on the Idaho Fish and Game website and click on the “Public Involvement” tab on the right side of the home page. (Direct link: https://fishandgame.idaho.gov/content/public-involvement).
Senate Bill 1236, which would mandate the annual issuance of all 12 “Governor's Wildlife Partnership” tags, has been introduced in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee. People can comment on the bill by contacting their legislators.
Other legislation pertaining to Fish and Game is posted on the department’s website under the “About Us” tab. Click on “Legislative Information and Updates.”