Idaho controversy with politics and wildlife

Politics and wildlife

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Newly-released emails show politics may have been involved when it comes to issuing big-game hunting tags. Two powerful Idahoans want to auction off big-game tags to the highest bidder to raise money for the agency. But two Fish and Game commissioners disagreed.

Whatever is happening, this has some wondering if the two commissioners did not reapply for their positions because they knew they wouldn't be appointed.

The tension started brewing earlier this year when Fish and Game commissioners disagreed with a lawmaker and a businessman who were trying to turn the commission's hunting tag award system into a bidding war.

The Idaho Wildlife Federation says those men eventually strong-armed Gov. Butch Otter to get rid of those who disagreed with them.

On one side -- Blackfoot businessman Doug Sayer and state Sen. Steve Bair. On the other side -- former Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners Mark Doerr and Will Naillon. The decision maker -- Gov. Otter. The issue in question: how to give out much-sought-after hunting permits that allow hunting for big game.

Sayer and Bair wanted to change the current system to an auction-style and give those permits to the highest bidder. Commissioners Doerr and Naillon disagreed.

"The bottom line is that the people who we represented just weren't in support of that -- for a large margin. I couldn't in good conscience go along with auction tags when my constituency wasn't in favor," said Naillon.

Many wonder why pushing for auction tags was a secret to begin with. Brian Brooks, executive director of the IWF, noticed certain emails were deleted and information was left out.

"If this was an issue that was truly supported by sportsmen and women of the state of Idaho, I feel like we would have been involved in the very beginning. However, these handful of people have been operating behind the scenes and keeping this secret, and now they're coming out saying, 'Oh, this is for the benefit of everyone,'" said Brooks.

The issue for them wasn't about the auction tags or reappointment, the former commissioners feel politics played a role in public service.

Brian Brooks, Idaho Wildlife Federation Executive Director
"The Idaho Wildlife Federation is not opposed to auction tags in general. What we're opposed to is politicians getting involved in wildlife management," said Brooks.

"Legislatively running the Fish and Game Department just doesn't work. The biggest threat here is the sportsmen losing their voice, and that's really what needs protection. It's not really about Commissioner Doerr or I losing our positions. It's really about the public having that input," said Naillon.

I reached out to Doug Sayer with no luck, but I was able to personally talk with Sen. Steven Bair.
Bair said there was nothing dark or secretive about what he and Sayer discussed in those emails.
He said he had nothing to do with the Fish and Game commissioners not being reappointed, and  everything he did was known to the constituents, to the commissioners and even to the Fish and Game director.

Bair also said, "I'd like to thank Mark Doerr and Will Naillon for the good work that they did on the Fish and Game commission. They're both honorable men with integrity and I appreciate their service."

View the released emails, provided by IWF.

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