January 31, 2006
Todd Carter, Idaho Trout Unlimited (208) 237-1299
Bob Minter, Ada County Fish and Game League (208) 287-4901
Stan Riddle, Deer Hunters of Idaho, (208) 939-1878
Chris Hunt, Trout Unlimited (208) 552-0891, ext. 714
BOISE—Trout Unlimited today congratulated the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus for taking an official position in favor of roadless area protection and for requesting that Gov. Dirk Kempthorne do the same when he petitions the U.S. Department of Agriculture later this year.
The caucus, composed of 23 sportsmen’s groups from all over Idaho, sent a letter on Monday to Gov. Kempthorne and Jim Caswell, director of the state’s Office of Species Conservation, asking them to “endorse a petition to the Secretary of Agriculture that will keep Idaho’s national forest inventoried roadless areas unchanged.”
Idaho has over 9 million acres of national forest inventoried roadless lands, the most of any state outside of Alaska. These roadless areas are located all over the state, and are home to Idaho’s healthiest big-game herds and heartiest wild and native fish populations. The Sportsmen’s Caucus, in its letter to the governor, noted that Idaho’s roadless areas enable the state to have the longest and most liberal hunting seasons in the West, and that many of Idaho’s roadless areas provide key spawning beds for increasingly rare ocean-going salmon and steelhead.
“The letter to the governor was very insightful, and it didn’t try to play on anyone’s fears,” said Todd Carter, state council chairman of Idaho Trout Unlimited, a member of the caucus. “It simply stated the facts, and the facts are that roadless areas make it possible for Idaho sportsmen to enjoy the best hunting and fishing in the country.”
And thanks to hunters and anglers, Idaho enjoys an annual economic boon from hunting and fishing. The letter to the governor notes that sportsmen contribute over $600 million annually to the state’s economy.
“That’s particularly impressive,” said Bob Minter, president of the Ada County Fish and Game League, referencing the economic data. But roadless protection also gives Idaho sportsmen the chance to pass their hunting and fishing heritage down to their children and grandchildren, he said. “It’s truly important to protect these areas for wildlife and preserve the opportunity for Idaho sportsmen to enjoy our wildlife now and into the future. And keep in mind, sportsmen aren’t the only ones who use wildlife resources in Idaho—many of us love to photograph wildlife or simply watch wildlife. The more we’re able to protect that habitat, the better off we’ll all be.”
Stan Riddle of Deer Hunters of Idaho noted the importance of roadless lands to everyone who fishes or hunts.
“For sportsmen, this is a vital issue, and not just for hunters and anglers who visit roadless areas,” he said. “Mule deer and elk migrate over large areas and in and out of roadless and roaded areas all the time. All hunters benefit from the protection roadless areas offer our big game. It gives the wild game a place to rest from the constant pressure of hunting and other human activities.”
The caucus, which represents over 20,000 sportsmen in Idaho, was quick to point out that, while it would like to see roadless areas left intact, it did not support closing existing roads. In fact, the letter expresses hopes that federal funding will be provided to maintain the states 34,000 miles of Forest Service roads in the state “so that reasonable and traditional access to Idaho’s public lands is ensured.”
“That’s the key here,” Carter said. “The caucus is asking for something very reasonable—its members simply want to keep things like they are now. Gov. Kempthorne can make sure we keep our access to roadless lands just like it is now by petitioning the Department of Agriculture for that very thing.”