After a lengthy discussion with my son regarding my former employer and how wildlife is managed in Idaho, it occurred to me that this might be a topic of interest to anyone who enjoys wildlife and the outdoors. So, I thought I would share just a little of how wildlife and wildlife-based recreation are managed in Idaho.

Idaho Code 36-103a gives the specific direction for how wildlife is to be managed, and this is the mission statement for Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the agency charged with carrying out this directive: “All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.”

The Department of Fish and Game answers to the Fish and Game Commission, a board of seven volunteer citizens, one from each IDFG region and all advocates for wildlife. These commissioners are appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. They serve a four-year term and may serve two consecutive terms. No more than four commissioners may be from the same political party. “The Commission’s purpose is to implement the wildlife policy of the state consistent with the provisions of state law (IDFG website).”

The director of IDFG serves as secretary to the commission and is chosen by them. He is not elected or politically appointed, an important point and part of the reason for the citizen initiative of 1938 that established the current system. The Department provides information and recommendations to the commission regarding hunting, fishing and trapping seasons, budgets and more, but it is the commission that actually adopts or rejects these recommendations.

They hold a minimum of four annual meetings across the state to consider public opinion but may hold more meetings as needed. You can find their schedule on the IDFG website at

Most of the commission meetings are open to the public and the public is encouraged to attend. There is always a portion of the meetings dedicated to letting the commission hear from the public. This is where your voice can be heard by the decision-makers.

Other ways to participate in Idaho fish and wildlife management include attending regional big game meetings (usually held mid-winter every other year now that they use big game regulations for two years), participating in mail-in or email surveys, and attending/commenting on long-term management plans. Well-supported ideas are always given attention.

The department is funded in a number of ways, including resident license sales (about 15% of the budget), nonresident licenses (about 26% of the budget), and a variety of federal and non-federal (such as wildlife license plates) funding sources, for a total budget of about $128 million (2020) and 569 classified professional employees. Many people still do not realize that IDFG does not receive any general funds from state tax dollars.

People often confuse Idaho Department of Fish and Game with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal agency tasked with, among many other things, overseeing endangered species. Once a species becomes listed, this agency has the final say. Until that point, all wildlife is, as stated before, the property of the state and managed by Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

That is just a thumbnail of the process. If you would like to learn a lot more on this subject, visit the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website.

Terry Thomas is a wildlife biologist and naturalist. You can read more of his work on his website,, or pick up a copy of “The Best of Nature,” a collection of more than 100 of Thomas’s best nature essays at the Post Register. Follow him on Facebook, Nature-track.

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