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75th Celebration: Healthy Habitat, a New Year's Resolution

Every species in Idaho, whether big or small, predator or prey, needs the same thing - habitat.

Having large enough areas of the right kind of habitat is essential to maintaining healthy populations of wildlife in Idaho for the public to enjoy. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game uses various methods to improve habitat.

Wildlife Management Areas

Fish and Game owns about 204,000 acres in Idaho. Wildlife management areas play a critical role in the life-cycle of the species or suite of species for which they were purchased.

Some were purchased to provide critical winter range or migratory corridors for deer, elk, and antelope. Others are large wetlands complexes important for waterfowl and shorebirds. They are located in every region of the state, and many are in close proximity to Idaho's population centers. Each area has a habitat biologist, whose responsibility is maximizing benefits to wildlife and providing for enjoyment of the public.

Partnerships with Other Landowners

As you can imagine, it is difficult to manage wildlife populations when you only own 204,000 acres of the 53 million acres in Idaho. Since roughly 70 percent of the state is in public ownership and about 30 percent of the state is in private ownership, Fish and Game needs to work with both public land management agencies and private landowners.

Public land management agencies include the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Lands, and projects include:

  • Conducting prescribed burns to improve aspen stands.
  • Creating larger impoundments and planting wetland plants to restore degraded wetlands.
  • Fencing riparian areas to better manage livestock and vehicle use.
  • Reseeding shrubs, grasses and forbs after wildfire.
  • Cutting junipers to reduce densities in shrub-steppe habitats to benefit mule deer and sage grouse.

Other projects take place on private lands. These projects focus on activities that benefit sustainable agriculture and wildlife. Current projects include:

  • Working with farmers to plant habitat on highly-erodible farm land.
  • Working with grazing associations to reduce juniper on shrub-steppe habitats.
  • Providing engineering assistance and project funding to restore wetlands on private and public lands.
  • Writing timber stand improvement plans for private land.

Volunteers

Fish and Game volunteer projects are an opportunity for people to participate in habitat restoration. These rewarding activities provide an excuse to get outside, as well as improve and enjoy the land. Most projects include some type of restoration or planting activity, such as:

  • Planting sagebrush or bitterbrush on wildlife management areas or other public lands.
  • Planting willow cuttings in riparian areas.
  • Removing old fences to make wildlife passage easier.

Given this variety of projects, everybody can find something to enjoy.

Everybody Has a Role

Everybody can help improve the habitat of Idaho. Anyone who owns a parcel of property can work with Fish and Game employees on ways to improve it for wildlife. Even in a small yard in town, there are ways to help wildlife, like planting native plants to make it more attractive to backyard birds and pollinators.

Each one of these methods has an important place in the "toolbox" of habitat improvement. But Fish and Game can only continue to work on habitat projects if it has adequate funding. Fish and Game, as well as many other conservation groups, receives no funding from taxpayers.

Supporting Fish and Game and other nongovernmental conservation organizations through donations or purchasing a hunting or fishing license is an easy way to contribute to habitat in Idaho.

For more on Idaho's celebration marking 75 years since the creation of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in 1938, go online to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/75th/.