Hunters, anglers document valuable areas

Courtesy Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Over the next few years, officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are undertaking a lengthy process to rewrite resource management plans for the Salmon-Challis National Forest and nearby BLM land.

The resource management plans, last updated some 30 years ago, cover about 7.4 million acres, or about one-quarter of the federal land in the state. According to a Forest Service timeline, the federal agencies are in the process of reviewing current conditions in central Idaho’s federal lands, and officials hope to produce an initial draft plan by next summer. They project it will take another year for a final plan to be published.

Federal lands operate on a principle of multiple use, and public input can exercise major influence on the eventual shape of a resources management plan.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a hunting and fishing advocacy group, has spent months with hunters and fishermen, asking them to outline the most important areas for access across the state. Now the group hopes to share its data with federal land managers so they can use it to shape the resource management plan.

“We want to give voice to hunters and anglers,” said Rob Thornberry, a field representative with the group. “Hunting and fishing are a renewable industry built on public lands. This helps us show the areas hunters and anglers cherish.”

The map is the product of 20 sessions held over the last year with hunters and fishermen around the state, in which hunters were asked to point out which areas of land are important for hunting and fishing. More than 400 were interviewed in all, drawing respondents mainly from sportsmen’s groups.

Hunters and anglers interviewed during the sessions put particularly high value on eastern portions of Bonneville County, which is home to the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area and many top trout fishing locations along the South Fork of the Snake River. Many also placed high value on portions of land between Challis and Arco, areas east of Mountain Home and areas south and east of Lewiston.

But Thornberry said some areas might be more highly valued in the data because of where meetings were held and where hunters and anglers responding prefer to spend time in the field. One important finding, Thornberry said, was that every spot of land in the state was singled out by someone.

“Every inch of the state was valued by somebody, which is a testament to the passion around hunting and fishing,” Thornberry said.

Idaho is the fifth state in which the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has produced a similar map of valuable hunting and fishing land, and some states, including Arizona, have partnered directly with the group to produce data on what lands sportsmen value.

“This map will serve as a useful tool for conservation and management as state and federal agencies evaluate areas for habitat improvements and hunting and fishing opportunities,” said Mark Gamblin, regional supervisor for Idaho Fish and Game, in a news release.

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.