Idaho sportsmen ante up to support wildlife management

Jillian Lukiwski backpacking and fishing in Idaho’s Sawtooth mountain range near Stanley, Idaho. Josh Duplechian/Trout Unlimited

By Michael Gibson

Significant cuts are being proposed to federal programs that benefit sportsmen and healthy habitat. But in Idaho, sportsmen successfully lobbied to increase their own license fees for the greater benefit of our wildlife, setting an example that sportsmen are willing to pay more to conserve our hunting and fishing heritage.

At the federal level, the proposed 12-percent cut at the Department of Interior would trim $1.5 billion in funding to public land management agencies, such as the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture budget would be cut by 21 percent, or $4.7 billion, and the Environmental Protection Agency budget would be cut by 31 percent, or $2.6 billion.

Those cuts would damage TU’s mission across the board, drying up money for restoration, land purchases and monitoring programs for water and air.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Legislature unanimously approved a fee increase on hunters and anglers, the first undivided vote of its kind. Gov. Butch Otter signed House Bill 230 into law on March 27.

The bill creates a $5 license endorsement ($10 non-resident) that beefs up the depredation program and provides nearly $1 million per year for hunting and fishing access. Additionally, it will enact a 20 percent increase on all licenses, but reward anglers who buy a license every year by grandfathering their license prices. The bill also increases ear-marked funds by an estimated $800,000 per year for fishery improvements and access.

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An angler wades the waters of the Henry’s Fork. Brett Prettyman/Trout Unlimited

In addition to the fee increase, sportsmen worked with Fish and Game to set aside funds for salmon and steelhead work. At the same time, anglers and hunters supported increases to the Idaho Department of Agriculture budget for boat check stations that resulted in an increase of more than $4 million this session to help fend off dreaded invasive mussels.

This year’s work to help fund fish and wildlife management in Idaho marks a major shift in state politics. The Idaho Farm Bureau and hunters and anglers of every stripe joined together to bring much needed financial relief to the wildlife department. This partnership ended decades of animosity and allowed the Idaho legislature to finally give cash-strapped wildlife managers a dose of critical revenue.

Now anglers need to jump into the fray on a nationwide scale. President Trump’s budget is a mission statement and we have to make sure Congress, holders of the purse strings, hear our voices in opposition to a budget proposal that would negatively impact fish and wildlife.

Habitat and wildlife funding is crucial— so important sportsmen are consistently willing to tax themselves to contribute more. We can only hope that Congress looks at the most recent example in Idaho as constituents again show their support and willingness to fund things that matter, not take funding away.

To get involved, visit Trout Unlimited’s Take Action Center.

Michael Gibson is the Idaho Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen Conservation Project. He is based out of Boise and can be reached at

By Brett Prettyman.