Virgil Moore has spent much of his adult life with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He moved to the Gem State to attend graduate school at Idaho State University in 1974 and began working with the department in 1977. Apart from his wife (his high school sweetheart), his two daughters and three grandchildren, he considers Fish and Game his family. So when Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter chose him in March to be Fish and Game's new director, for Moore it was more like becoming a patriarch.
You spent a lot of time at Idaho's fisheries, even becoming the department's chief of fisheries.
When I first came here in the mid '70s, we had the department's very first wild fish management plan. We worked really hard to craft new rules to stem the harvest impacts, particularly on trout. It's a tremendous legacy that we put new science together to serve as a foundation for fishing practices.
What's a tangible example of that change?
The first job I had was a research biologist on the South Fork of the Snake River. The cutthroat trout were declining. We went in there to measure what was going on and quickly determined the problem wasn't spawning or production. It was just too much harvesting.
But the greater challenge had to be convincing people who fished to support new rules.
Fish and wildlife management is not just application of science. Some of the public wanted to catch and photograph big trout. Others wanted or needed to take home five or six fish to eat. There is nothing wrong with either as long as it's sustainable. Our challenge is to ensure that the diversity of needs is addressed in a management plan built within biological constraints.
What are IDFG's budget challenges?
We're still predominately funded by hunting and fishing license fees and excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. Our revenue stream from hunting and fishing is stable, but it's not really growing.
Why is it not growing alongside Idaho's ever-increasing population?
Up until the mid 1980s, our license sales tracked population growth, but they've leveled off.
Is it a cultural shift?
Families are choosing to use their time differently, but Idaho still has an extremely high proportion of people who call themselves hunters and anglers. About 50 percent to 60 percent of our population says they fish. Idaho has about 30 percent that hunt. Compare that to California, which has about a 3 or 4 percent hunting population.
The most recent federal budget included an attachment taking gray wolves in the Northern Rockies off the Endangered Species List. Where is the department with enacting that change?
As we speak, we're waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to publish a rule to that effect. We think it will be sooner than later, and we'll take back the lead on wolf management as soon as that is published. We understand that there will be no waiting period. We're moving very quickly to get all of our management structure back into place.
Will we see wolf hunts like we saw two years ago?
We hope to have a proposed hunting season for our commission to review at our July meeting. Rules could be set in August. We would propose to start a wolf hunt with the opening of the big game season in early September.
Has livestock depredation diminished, grown or leveled off?
We saw fewer depredation complaints last year than the year before. We think that's because we reduced the number of animals in the 2009-2010 hunting season. We're reasonably confident that the depredation is due to a reduction of wolves and the wariness of the animals to humans.
Are depredations still highest in the Lolo Zone (in northeast Idaho)?
Yes. When we get into elk depredation, the highest impacts are in the Lolo Zone. We need to update those numbers with information from last year's work on elk. We're getting that by collaring animals and then tracking them to see what the cause of death is. We'll be able to use that information to make some pretty good decisions.
Everyone seems to know a little bit about this issue. When you have the opportunity to talk to the public, do you end up correcting myths about gray wolves in Idaho?
There are myths on both sides of this issue. We've got to be out there making sure that the best information is available. Whether it's used or not is a different story. As we get back to full management on the issue, you'll be seeing a lot more from us.