Ring-necked pheasants are beautiful birds, but they are native to Asia, not Idaho, not even North America. I know people love hunting them, but let's entertain the thought for a second. A new fish and game commissioner wants to essentially expand the revenue for the department by increasing the marketing of the take of two nonnative species. Where are those proud Idahoans when this type of thing continues to happen over and over again?
Zane Grey, one of my favorite people in the whole world, said of smallmouth bass something to the effect of pound for pound the fightingest fish. And I grew up around native waters of smallmouth and I agree with Zane's assessment. The thing is, smallmouth bass are native to the Midwest and MidSouth of the United States (see the map below). They are not native to Idaho waters, though we have dumped them into our waters with reckless abandon. They belong in waters in places where I'm from, they do not belong here. Idaho has its own wonderful fish and wildlife heritage and any Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner should not only be proud of our native fish and wildlife heritage, but he should also be the best guardian of our native fish and wildlife heritage.
I remember when I first moved to this state, I did an experiment on some of you. As I drove the 30 miles to get my new Idaho license plates for my truck, I smiled and waved at every single car passing in the opposite lane on the highway. Not a single person waved back because I had Missouri plates. I bought my new plates and I got a low number instead of one of the top of the new plate pile high numbers and I drove back home not raising my hand or smiling at a single soul passing me in the opposite lane and you all were raising your hands and waving like I was the honoree of some ticker tape parade.
Where is that home state pride when it comes to your very, very incredible native fish and wildlife heritage? You have some of the greatest, most iconic fish and wildlife in the continent and someone tasked with leading the management of the fish and wildlife in the state is going to sell you on nonnative species. You have all of these great, native species and you allow your waters to be fouled with nonnative fish that invade your native fish habitat and take over. What is wrong with westslope cutthroat, Bonneville cutthroat and Yellowstone cutthroats (and the Snake River fine spotted version)? What's wrong with bull trout and your steelhead and chinook and sockeye and kokanee?
If you want more revenue for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, it is simple, I have written about this very recently, in fact. Get a mission statement that is inclusive of all Idahoans, pass an 1/8 or 1/4 cent sales tax that is dedicated to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and operate the department in a way that welcomes hunters, anglers and all other outdoor recreationists into the management of Idaho's native fish and wildlife because your revenue stream (which will be much larger now) commands you be inclusive. That's how you grow the pie. Unfortunately, Idahoans, you won't get that unless you also get some separation between the Governor and the people he appoints to sit on the commission.