Letters From the West

Hurlock said senators told lies, half truths to bring her down

Joan Hurlock of Buhl, a hunter and angler was rejected by Senate for post.

Joan Hurlock of Buhl, a hunter and angler was rejected by Senate for post.

Joan Hurlock sat in her fitness center in Buhl on Monday and watched as members of the Idaho Senate “told lies and half-truths” on the Senate floor as they tried to make the case she was not qualified for the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

The former forensic chemist for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Explosives and Arson Uni and former member of the U.S. Capitol Police — who out shot every other commissioner at a meeting last year in Idaho Falls — hasn’t bought a hunting license every year since she moved to Idaho. Members of the Senate considered that reason enough to question her qualifications.

But Sen. Lee Heider, who led the fight to stop her nomination, also used a squabble over a group set up in the name of her son to get wounded soldiers into the backcountry hunting as more proof she wasn’t qualified.

A Buhl man named Monte Bruhn had asked if they could use her son Doug’s name for the group.

Army Cpl. Doug Bridges, 22, of Buhl, was killed in action Nov. 4, 2006, in Baghdad.

Hurlock said she and her husband Matt Bridges  agreed and joined the board since they thought two in a family of a group raising money in the name of their son was not right.

Heider said that she had not not actively supported the group.

“We were involved and we donated a lot of money the first year,” Hurlock said.

When Hurlock and Bridges began questioning how the group was run by Bruhn, they left the group and asked him to take Doug’s name off the group. In response, Bruhn has been one of the main voices raising doubts about her and her husband’s interest in hunting, testifying at the committee hearing.

Bruhn said Thursday the issue is over and he had no comment. What made Hurlock angry was that Heider never asked her side of the issue before telling the story on the Senate floor.

Heider did not return a call yet.

The Senators didn’t care that she was selected as meeting all of the legal qualifications through a selection process that made her one of three choices or that Gov. Butch Otter vetted her himself before appointing her, she said.

“The governor called me and said he was proud of me and thanked me for sticking it out,” Hurlock said. “He said I was the best qualified of the applicants, a no-brainer.”

Another commissioner Bob Borowsky had not owned a hunting license for more than a decade before his 2004 appointment, which came as the Democrat from Payette was preparing to run for the Legislature.

“If this is the qualification that sportsmen are wanting then they need to list it,” Hurlock said.

One the of the most interesting aspects of her nomination fight is that a neutral statement she made about wolves was one of the points Sen. Jeff Siddoway used against her. And Sen. Monte Pearce said, “There’s a fear of some environmentalism here.”

Pearce said on the floor that he had met with Hurlock but could not tell the Senate all he knows.

“Just trust us,” he said during the debate.

Hurlock gave $400 to the campaign of controversial elk rancher Rex Rammell, who ran against Otter for governor in 2010.

“I first learned about the wolf issue when Rex Rammell was campaigning, and I gave him money because I was concerned about states’ rights and how the federal government was ramming them down our throats,” Hurlock said.

But the daughter of a California game warden, Hurlock said her views about states’ rights and liberty don’t conflict with her concerns about the environment.

“Just because you are concerned about the environment and want to be sure the air and water is clean and wildlife protected doesn’t make you bad or liberal,” Hurlock said. “After all, sportsmen were the original conservationists.”

Otter has said he will set up a selection process to pick a new commissioner. He has not commented but someone who has spoken to him on the issue said of Hurlock’s rejection as his nominee: “He knows who really has his back but he knows who is pretending to have his back when his back is turned.”

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