The Wildlife Summit: A conversation about Idaho's wildlife

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A recent June day of salmon fishing with my family and friends on the Salmon River brought many things, including my wife's first chinook.

Waiting for "the bite" also brought us western tanagers feeding on emerging caddis flies, river otters frolicking near our boat, a cow elk nursing her new calf. As the soft glow of evening draped shadows across the water, we spotted some white-tailed does and fawns feeding in a field along the river. On a bench above them, several curious coyotes nosed their way along, watching the deer. This scene captured our attention, and we watched the animals until the evening light faded into night.

As I reflect on this fishing trip, it reminds me strongly about how all wildlife is such an important part of the fabric of our outdoor experiences. Seeing those deer and coyotes made a wonderful day of fishing even better. It is now a wildlife memory that I will carry and share with my grandchildren. It reminds me that no matter how Idahoans enjoy wildlife, that wildlife is our common ground, our shared responsibility. That includes hunters and anglers, bird watchers and wildlife photographers, hikers and campers. It is a rich legacy that we have inherited from the past. Today the question is what we want that legacy to look like for our grandchildren.

This question is the fundamental focus of the upcoming Idaho Wildlife Summit, Aug. 24-26. Thanks to a voter initiative in 1938, Idaho's abundant wildlife resource has benefited from professional management through the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. However, much has changed since 1938, and our wildlife faces many challenges. Over the past 74 years, Idaho's population has tripled - two-thirds now live in cities. Important wildlife habitat has changed or disappeared. Invasive species compete with native wildlife, altering habitats and changing the landscape.

Wildlife-related recreation has changed as well. Idaho's population is increasing faster than the number of Idahoans who hunt and fish, and wildlife watching is increasingly popular in our state. While 80 percent of Idaho's wildlife is not hunted or fished, hunters and anglers support most of the cost to manage all species through license and tag fees. No general tax revenue goes to manage the wildlife we all enjoy. The summit is a starting point for exploring how to generate broader support for wildlife conservation and wildlife related activities.

I am excited about the Wildlife Summit and encourage you to attend. It is an opportunity for Idahoans to gather to discuss the future of our rich wildlife heritage of hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation. It is neither a referendum nor a vote on any policy or program. It is instead an opportunity to explore our common ground to foster a renewed enthusiasm and commitment for wildlife conservation in Idaho. It is a commitment to discuss the future course for an abundant wildlife resource and its legacy - a legacy I hope will include my great-grandchildren fishing on a Salmon River ringing with the songs of canyon wrens and the sun throwing shadows over some deer being watched by curious coyotes.

Please visit the summit website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/summit for more information.

Virgil Moore is the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

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