Due to the amount of information we need to get out to you, we are spliting the early February FYI Bulletin into two bulletins. Below is an update on various Government Affairs issues and Lobby Day. You can expect the next FYI Bulletin with other updates and information by Friday, February 6th.
Government Affairs Liaison Reports by Grant Simonds
Governor Sets Priorities
The Idaho Legislature is off to a busy start after beginning on January 12th. Most committees have been hearing rules for the past several weeks and are beginning to introduce RS’s so they can start taking up bills.
In the Governor’s State of the State in January, he outlined the priority issues for this year: education, transportation, and taxes. The Governor called for a 7.4% education budget increase and suggested full re-contracting of the Idaho Education Network contract. Many of the Governor’s Education Taskforce’s recommendations will be up for discussion this session. Improvement of Idaho’s damaged roads and bridges is going to be a priority as well and the Governor emphasized that he would not entertain the idea of using general fund tax dollars to fund transportation improvements asking for creative ideas from the legislature. Governor Otter also noted his desire to reduce taxes and presented a five year tax cut plan to reduce high earning individuals and corporations from the current 7.4% rate to 6.9%. Finally, the Governor referenced the Medicaid Redesign Workgroup’s report and encouraged the legislature to hold committee hearings and educate themselves about Medicaid and to take action if they found it is warranted.
As legislation is introduced, IOGA’s primary lobbyist, Tyler Mallard, is providing weekly tracking reports on the status of relevant legislation. One can follow the Idaho Legislature through the extensive website that includes information such as who’s your legislator, contacting legislators, bill center, calendars and agendas and live coverage of committee hearings through video and audio streaming.
IOGA Lobby Day, February 18th
Lobby Day has been an IOGA signature event since 1992. The purpose is for members to make contact with elected leaders at two venues, the Statehouse and especially during our Taste of Idaho Outfitting dutch oven cuisine event at the Basque Center in downtown Boise. We are about half-way toward our goal of needing 25 to 30 outfitters and guides to achieve the results intended which include serving our kind of food to 125 to 150 elected leaders and friends of the industry. This is a much anticipated reception on legislators’ calendars. Contact member Lynn Demerse and/or IOGA Office Manager Janey Bruesch with wild game and fish donations and your ability to participate. Members interested in meeting with the Governor, Lt. Governor, legislative leaders, and the Office of Species Conservation are encouraged to contact Grant Simonds, IOGA Government Affairs Liaison.
The Idaho Fish and Game Department has introduced legislation to increase resident Idaho license and tag fees, but with a twist; HB 32, if approved, would be followed by a Fish and Game Commission order allowing license buyers to exempt themselves from the increase as long as they buy an annual license starting this year. It’s been a decade since the last resident fee hike and IDFG’s operational costs have increased 22 percent due to inflation. The Price Lock proposal is unique to Idaho. The goal is to create an incentive for hunters, anglers and trappers to buy annual licenses, whether they use them or not. Idaho’s resident outfitters and guides would obviously benefit under this proposal. For more information on Price Lock, click here.
Public Lands Transfer takes another Route
In April 2013, the Idaho Legislature approved a resolution demanding a transfer of 83 % of all federally administered public lands in Idaho. Subsequently, a legislative interim committee has heard from the public, scholars and legal opinions have been rendered and digested. Recently, the interim committee chaired by Senator Chuck Winder, R-Boise, has issued a final report that includes several policy recommendations including encouragement and facilitation of existing collaborations. IOGA testimony to the interim committee included concern as to how the state would administer nearly 400 outfitter businesses and what the administrative costs would be. Predominantly, IOGA members are somewhat satisfied with existing federal management of our public lands including permit administration, wonder how the State could possibly afford wildfire suppression costs, and would not be in favor of the selling off of our public lands. The Idaho Wildlife Federation is sponsoring a Public Lands Rally on February 12th beginning at noon on the Capitol steps.
Simpson Revises Boulder White Clouds Proposal
Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson has revised his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) and is working with Idaho U.S. Senator Jim Risch on an alternative to having the Boulder-White Clouds declared a national monument, which only the President can do through the 1905 Antiquities Act. Under the updated CIEDRA, three new wilderness areas would be created totaling 295,960 acres, which is less than the original proposal of 13 years ago at 332,998 acres. Simpson has said that the Obama administration has assured him that no monument proclamation will occur in the next six months. Wilderness bills insure a public process while monuments are proclaimed. In either case, a management planning process would follow. Check out Rep. Simpson’s website for details on his proposal including maps. His bill includes outfitter language. For reaction to Simpson’s updated CIEDRA, check out this article in the Idaho Statesman by Rocky Barker on January 25th.
America Outdoors Association (AOA) is again sponsoring its annual gathering of outfitters from around the country in March. The purpose of Camp Washington is for outfitters to make contact with Congress and administrative agencies such as the BLM and USFS. Idaho outfitters who have committed to participate include Greg McFadden of Canyons, Inc. and Louise Stark of White Cloud Outfitters. National outfitter issues include:
- Reauthorization of the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act. The bill was marked up in 2014 by the House Natural Resources Committee and AOA will be promoting final passage.
- Defunding the Department of Labor enforcement of the minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour for seasonal recreational businesses (beginning in FY2016) and amending the Fair Labor Standards Act to restore the exemption for seasonal recreational businesses on public lands and clarifying the definition of seasonal recreational establishments in the FLSA to include recreation service providers, such as outfitters. Currently the exemption appears to only be for recreational “establishments”, implying facilities-based recreation which has been narrowly interpreted.
The Idaho Business Review interviewed AOA’s David Brown when he was in Boise to address IOGA annual meeting participants on the issues listed above and more.
This month’s edition of Outside magazine has a feature article by Elliot D. Woods regarding a summary of the politics and results of wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies featuring an Idaho outfitter and guide, a Montana rancher, agency persons and pro wolf advocates, among others. Interesting read. At the time that Woods call me for my thoughts and information regarding his research, I sent him the IOGA membership position on wolves. As a side note, the results of an IDFG survey of non-resident hunters in 2008 indicated that the primary reasons why they were not inclined to hunt Idaho was wolves, a recent increase in non-resident fees and the recession.
Update on Idaho Big Game Populations
During the January Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission meeting in Boise, Jon Rachael, IDFG big game coordinator and a regular presenter during annual IOGA meetings, told commissioners that hunters had a “banner year” for deer and elk hunting. In 2014, the IDFG sold more than 157,000 deer tags and 93,000 elk tags, exceeding numbers sold in any of the previous six years. His presentation is full of data including population objectives for Idaho’s big game management units. Click here for details of Rachael’s presentation.
Opportunity to provide input on Idaho’s fishery
Over the next few months, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be collecting public input and ideas for fishing rules that will be in effect from 2016 – 2018 and also asking where anglers need new or better access facilities. Meetings with IDFG fishery biologists in all seven regions are scheduled for this month, and input can be provided online. Click here for more information
2015 Partners Afloat for Main Salmon
An indirect result of the annual BLM and USFS river manager reports during the annual IOGA meeting in December is that the Salmon-Challis National Forest and the IOGA are co-sponsoring a Main Salmon Partners Afloat scheduled for May 11-15. For more information contact Grant Simonds. Many thanks to the record turnout of agency river managers who presented a review of the 2014 season on the various rivers in Idaho!