Letters From the West

Another fish and game commissioner forced out by sportsmen

David Jennings

David Jennings

A Fish and Game Commissioner is removed after a polarizing campaign by hunters claiming they didn’t oppose wolves enough and were pushing non-consumptive wildlife value.

No, I am not talking about the smear campaign that led the Idaho Senate to deny confirmation to Joan Hurlock to Idaho’s commission. This time, it’s Washington.

Earlier this month, a Washington Senate Committee sent Fish & Wildlife Commissioner David Jennings’ confirmation to the floor without a recommendation. Gov. Jay Inslee pulled his re-nomination of the Olympia birder, wildlife watcher and scuba diver because it was doomed.

Jennings, an environmental public health professional, has a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources in Wildlife Management and a Masters of Public Health in Biostatistics. He had served on the commission since 2009.

Jennings, a member of the Black Hills Audubon Society and the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, was portrayed by critics as a radical environmentalist who wanted to close off wide areas of the ocean to fishing and liked wolves.

“For the sportsmen of Washington, Jennings was too much of a polarizing figure, and we don’t need that on the Fish and Wildlife Commission,” Republican Sen. Kirk Pearson, of Monroe, said in Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

The Washington action comes days before Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is weighing recommendations from his search committee of sportsmen, former commissioners and his staff to replace Hurlock, of Buhl and Commissioner Tony McDermott of Sagle.

Joan Hurlock

Joan Hurlock

Hurlock’s major initiative on the commission was to help get kids more interested in wildlife including hunting and fishing. Her major drawback is while she supported a wolf hunting season she didn’t hate wolves and did hunt enough to meet the senators high bar.

Yet current Fish and Game Commission Chairman Bob Borowsky of Payette had not owned a hunting license for more than a decade before his 2004 appointment. One senator revealed sexism as an issue, when he suggested she was a better fit for the nursing board.

As you would expect this demonization goes both ways. California Fish and Game Commission President Daniel Richards, was pushed out of his post in 2012 after a photo was published that showed him displaying a mountain lion that he shot  in North Idaho. Voters outlawed mountain lion hunting in California.

This polarization in wildlife management is not new, but it comes as the traditional funding sources for fish and wildlife management are drying up. It also comes as the number of young people getting involved in the outdoors is dropping dramatically.

That’s why Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore organized the Idaho Wildlife Summit last August that attracted thousands of Idahoans interested in helping wildlife.
But the political actions since suggest things are going to get worse before they get better.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West