Idaho Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The aim of Idaho’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy is to provide a common framework that will enable conservation partners to jointly implement a long-term approach for the benefit of “species of greatest conservation need”. To this end, this strategy promotes proactive conservation to ensure cost-effective solutions instead of reactive measures enacted in the face of imminent losses.

The planning team for the Idaho Strategy consisted of a coordinator and a core team of individuals from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. We involved multiple staff levels within the Department and the Director took an active role in the Strategy Leadership Committee, as well as met with stakeholders and gave presentations on the Strategy.

We chose an ecologically based landscape approach to planning that allowed us to organize the Strategy by geographic regions – referred to as “ecological sections” or simply “sections”—expected to have similar species, habitats and conservation needs. We combined this section-level approach with a fine-scale approach of identifying species-level issues and conservation needs for 229 species. The use of ecological sections as a means of planning appealed to us because of its wide acceptance within the ecological community and its close association to The Nature Conservancy’s ecoregional plans and Partners in Flight regional plans. In addition, this approach facilitates coordination with adjacent states, e.g., Oregon and Washington, who organized their strategies similarly.

Management

Idaho is 64-percent publicly owned, and as such is managed primarily by two agencies: the USDA Forest Service and the USDI Bureau of Land Management. Because of this, Idaho presents a different scenario for conservation than states that are predominantly privately owned.

Wildlife Highlights

Idaho is home to an assemblage of wildlife as diverse as the landscape it occupies: wide-ranging carnivores such as gray wolf and grizzly bear, sagebrush obligates such as pygmy rabbit and greater sage-grouse, and anadromous fishes such as chinook and sockeye salmon exemplify Idaho’s wildlife diversity.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Idaho

Idaho faces many challenges to ensuring that healthy wildlife populations remain for future generations.

Development Pressures

As the state’s population grows, development and transportation systems also increase. Idaho’s working farms, ranches and private forests have long provided homes for fish and wildlife. But its burgeoning population is converting many of these areas into residential developments. Subdivisions and second homes are pushing deeper and deeper into core areas used by wildlife. As a result, transportation systems, coupled with development, fragment habitats used by wide-ranging species. State and local governments need to have a strategy for ensuring that wildlife can continue to thrive as Idaho’s landscapes change.

Invasive Species

With each passing year, it becomes more obvious that noxious weeds and other invasive species are an enormous threat to a wide range of fish and wildlife. Noxious weeds have already degraded several million acres of Idaho’s forests and grasslands. Aquatic invaders, such as Eurasian water milfoil and New Zealand mud snail, are spreading in our waterways. Even more damaging invasive species have been found in nearby states. The magnitude of the invasive species threat is still not fully understood by the public, but that is changing. The response of the public and natural resources managers to this threat must improve if strong and diverse wildlife populations are to survive.

Working Together for Idaho’s Wildlife

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game used a variety of methods to facilitate public input and involvement in developing its Strategy. Immediately prior to developing the Strategy, the Department conducted focus groups, a statewide public opinion survey, and workshops to gather information about public attitudes, opinions and preferences regarding the management of fish and wildlife including nongame and at-risk species.

Early in the process of developing the Strategy, the Department established a Leadership Committee that represented agencies and entities that would likely use or implement the Strategy. This committee comprised representatives of the USDA Forest Service, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Association of Counties, Intermountain Forest Association, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, USDI Bureau of Land Management, Office of Governor Dirk Kempthorne, The Nature Conservancy, private ranching community, Idaho Conservation League, University of Idaho, Idaho Council on Industry and the Environment, Idaho State Department of Agriculture, and Idaho Department of Lands.

In addition, we contracted with the Environmental Science and Public Policy Research Institute at Boise State University to conduct public involvement and outreach activities specifically for the Strategy.

An Idaho-specific brochure was developed for distribution through Idaho Fish and Game regional offices and at outreach meetings. Presentations were made to 23 groups – primarily those involved with natural resources issues – and at several less formal meetings with a limited number of stakeholders across the state.

Resource Advisory Committees (RACs) of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management were targeted because of the broad nature of interests represented by members. The purpose of the presentations was to inform stakeholders about the development of the Strategy, to gather input, and to encourage participation in implementing the Strategy.

 

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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