The public is encouraged to attend an open house meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at the Lewiston Fish and Game office, 3316 16th Street. Participants will be able to visit with area biologists, complete a survey, and voice their opinions regarding the management of Fish and Game lands. A barbeque pork dinner will be provided.
"We invite the public to help us identify WMA management issues, so we can better evaluate management priorities and develop WMA plans that reflect those priorities," Fish and game regional habitat manager Jim White said.
The last time the Fish and Game went through this updating process was 10 years ago. During the same time period, Idaho's population has increased by 21 percent. This change has resulted in an increase of visitors to Fish and Game lands. Along with an increase in public use, there has also been an increase in the types of public use activities and the demand for additional recreational opportunities.
Concurrently, during the past decade Fish and Game has experienced a decrease in the sales of hunting and fishing licenses, especially non-resident hunting tag sales. Idaho Fish and Game does not receive general tax dollars, it is funded primarily through the sale of licenses, tags and permits and matching federal funds. This has negatively impacted budgets and the ability of Fish and Game to fund all of its budgetary needs, including maintenance, operational and capital needs on the WMAs.
There are 32 wildlife management areas across Idaho. Some are managed for waterfowl production, others for big game winter range. And some are managed to provide hunting opportunity, with a few of those in Southern Idaho stocked with pheasants during hunting season to enhance hunter success. The overarching goals are to provide wildlife habitat and to offer public recreation.
The Clearwater Region has two wildlife management areas: Red River and Craig Mountain.
The acquisition of lands associated with Craig Mountain WMA began in 1971. By the early 1990's, about 20,000 acres had been purchased, mostly along the Snake River, south of Lewiston. In 1992, the Bonneville Power Administration purchased the 60,000-acre Howard Ranch as mitigation for the loss of wildlife and habitats from the flooding of Dworshak Reservoir.
Red River WMA was purchased in 1993 as critical habitat for elk calving and Chinook spawning. Located 15 miles of Elk City, this area encompasses 314 acres.
Those unable to attend the open house can provide their comments online by visiting the Fish and Game website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov and go to Wildlife Management Areas under the Wildlife tab.