Thursday, February 11, 2016
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As the agency responsible for managing wildlife in Idaho, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game develops long term management plans for fish and wildlife species found in the state.
Not to be confused with annual hunting regulations, species management plans provide direction for management of a particular species for the next ten years or more. Plans are completed for species that are hunted, fished and trapped, as well as those that are not harvested. Species management plans are somewhat rigid, guiding documents that are closely followed with the intent to achieve long term goals for a particular species.
Using many sources of input and data, Fish and Game develops plans to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage the fish and wildlife species that inhabit Idaho. For game animals, Fish and Game's mission is to provide continued supplies of wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.
Fish and Game is in the process of drafting a new Idaho elk management plan, a plan that was last revised in 1999. Because many hunters consider elk to be Idaho's premier big game animal, hunters will be very involved in shaping the new plan.
The previous elk management plan primarily addressed the need to manage hunter density and distribution while incorporating changes in elk populations. With this new revision, Fish and Game is addressing hunter preferences and current elk numbers.
The goal is to create a plan that is responsive, that incorporates biological and resource realities, and considers hunter input and desires. The plan will need final approval from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission before being adopted as the state plan.
Based on hunter survey results, aerial surveys and current elk population status, Idaho Fish and Game biologists have drafted statewide elk management objectives for the next 10-years. They have also developed objectives and strategies for each of the elk management zones. The objectives are still in draft form, but soon hunters will be able to comment on statewide elk management direction, zone-specific elk management goals, and the possible option of hunting in more than one elk zone during a hunting season.
To create a final plan, Fish and Game is seeking extensive public involvement. Meetings and open houses are planned throughout the state to bring hunters together and gather comments. Beginning in July, the department's web page will provide opportunities to participate in what will eventually become the state management plan.
In the Panhandle, an elk plan open house is scheduled from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 2, at the Fish and Game Panhandle Region office. Using comments from this meeting and others around the state, a draft elk management plan will be created. The draft will be completed in June.
Online participation in the process will be available beginning in July. There is already a link to the Idaho Elk Management Plan process on the front page of the Fish and Game website. The website is easy to find by searching for fishandgame.idaho.gov.
Follow the elk plan link to find loads of information about the process. Anyone interested, to make certain they don't miss any opportunities to participate, may sign up to receive e-mail updates by clicking on the ‘PageWatch' icon at the bottom of the elk plan page.
Open houses are just the beginning of the planning process and public participation is encouraged as the new elk plan develops.
The new Elk Management Plan will be presented to the commission for consideration and approval at the November commission meeting.