Friday, September 8, 2017
By Mark Carter
Idaho hunters have mapped their favorite hunting spots, part of an effort to chronicle the most active spots and help land managers with habitat conservation and enhancement of public lands access.
More than 400 hunters and anglers took part in the latest mapping project from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The project entailed inviting sportsmen to 20 "mapping events" held from 2015 to 2017 in partnership with sporting clubs in eight cities around the state -- Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Salmon, Stanley, Boise, Twin Falls, Moscow, and Coeur d’Alene.
Data from the "Sportsmen's Values Mapping Project" sessions has been assembled into a geograhic information system that can be overlaid with maps showing critical habitat, land ownership and planned development, according to TRCP. The maps reveal wintering areas, migration routes, spawning areas and other important habitats.
An Idaho waterfowl hunter from Coeur d’Alene identifies his favorite hunting areas during one of TRCP's 20 mapping sessions held across the state. (Rob Thornberry, TRCP)
The maps generated from the data will provide data previously unavailable to state and federal agencies and will help wildlife officials:
- Balance other land uses with the needs of fish, wildlife, hunters and anglers;
- Identify areas where public access needs to be maintained or improved;
- Identify key high-use areas warranting special conservation strategies;
- Justify actions and funding requests aimed at conserving highly valued wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing areas.
“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,” Mark Gamblin, regional supervisor for Idaho Fish and Game in the Pocatello region, told the TRCP blog.
In announcing its findings, TRCP said the data confirmed that "hunters are fiercely protective of nearby hunting and fishing opportunities and are profoundly aware of the areas with the most waterfowl, fish, upland birds, predators, and big game."
Idaho is the fifth state in which TRCP has launched the mapping project. The overall project was launched in 2007. Other states mapped as part of the project are Arizona, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. More information about the data gathered in those states and about the project overall is available here.
Meanwhile, Idaho wildlife officials are happy to receive the data provided by TRCP.
“Knowing Idaho’s population is increasing by 20,000 to 30,000 each year, sportsmen and women need to consider this growth to ensure that wildlife and quality habitat remain abundant,” said Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “This map highlights, quite literally, where we should focus our efforts.”
Rob Thornberry, TRCP’s Idaho field representative based out of Idaho Falls, said the next steps include formally presenting findings to Idaho Fish and Game and federal land managers. He told America Hunt that early feedback has been "very positive" but he still needs to get the maps in front of more decision makers.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore participates in the Sportsmen’s Value Mapping Project in Boise in 2016. (TRCP)
Thornberry said data revealed that hunters who took part in the project were loyal to public lands close to home but that roughly a third still travel all over the state to pursue game and fish.
“We’ve been able to pinpoint lands that are cherished for their hunting and fishing values, so that land managers can prioritize habitat conservation and the enhancement of public access in these areas,” he said.
Thornberry noted that 7.4 million acres of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands in eastern Idaho are entering a major plan revision, and the TRCP map could be a big part of it.
Over the three years of helping preside over mapping sessions, Thornberry said it became fascinating to watch hunters approach the maps and document where they had hunted.
"People would laugh at the idea of giving up their favorite spot, and then spend 20 minutes circling every spot they’d ever been," he said. "People genuinely love public lands and hunting and fishing."