Nov. 11: Those interested in hunting, fishing, and wildlife management in the Jewel State will have an opportunity to address the Idaho Game and Fish Commission when it visits Lewiston on Monday and Tuesday.
Commissioners will hold a public comment hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at the Idaho Game and Fish Department’s Clearwater regional office, 3316 16th St. at Lewiston Orchards. During the sessions, the curators listen to but do not respond to comments from the public.
The public hearing will be followed on Tuesday by a one-day meeting where public comments will not be allowed. At the meeting, which begins at 8 a.m., commissioners will hear an update on a measure last year to give refunds to nonresident deer hunters in Game Management Unit 11A. The unit on the south side of the Clearwater River between Spalding and Kamiah which includes parts of the Camas Prairie was particularly affected by an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease. Thousands of mostly white-tailed deer died from the disease, also known as EHD. Because non-resident hunters must select a unit in which they plan to hunt deer and adhere to that unit only, the department chose to offer them refunds. Resident hunters can move between units.
The move proved unpopular with some hunters and drew criticism from former Fish and Game Commissioner Dan Blanco of Moscow and the group Northern Idaho Whitetails Forever. The group charged that the agency was not transparent about the plan to offer refunds and downplayed the severity of the EHD death toll. The group also criticized a quote in the Tribune from department spokesman Roger Phillips, which erroneously said the reimbursement was discussed at a commission meeting. The refund was included in a report given to commissioners but was not discussed at the meeting.
“I’m just going to provide an overview of what happened and how the refund process worked, how many refunds were given, and the rationale,” said Jim Fredericks, assistant director of the department.
He will also update commissioners on adjustments the department made to deer stations this fall in light of last year’s EHD outbreak.
Commissioners will be updated on the agency’s catch-and-release policy and the latest science on fish survival after release. Unlike some states, Idaho allows anglers to briefly remove fish from the water before they are released, and the state has avoided closing catch-and-release fishing seasons during extreme heat waves.
As heat waves occur more frequently, Fredericks said some anglers remain interested in the state’s policy.
“It seems that it used to be that you would have a very warm, dry summer once every 10 years or so, and now it seems to be more frequent than that and I suspect it will be more frequent in the future,” he said.
Commissioners will also vote on a state wildlife action plan aimed at conserving endangered and rare species, and get updates on salmon and steelhead fishing seasons, wolf and disease management chronic