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Idaho Fish and Game appointee rejected for lack of hunting, fishing experience

February 13, 2013 at 06:54 AM

The Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho senators Monday rejected a gubernatorial appointment for the first time in decades, booting a Buhl fitness center owner from the Fish and Game Commission just seven months after Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter named her to the post.

The Senate voted 19-16 against Joan Hurlock, citing concerns over her hunting and fishing experience that some said left her ill-prepared to set policy governing Idaho’s wildlife on the seven-member commission.

Hurlock has held hunting and fishing licenses since moving to Idaho 15 years ago, though not continuously.

Such rejections are rare.

In 1988, the Senate blocked three appointees of Gov. Cecil Andrus, all of whom backed the Democratic chief executive as members of a “Republicans for Andrus” group. And in 1974, the Senate ditched another Andrus appointee, Robert Thomas of Coeur d’Alene, from the Fish and Game Commission.

On Monday, Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, a former Fish and Game commissioner and leader of the fight to depose Hurlock, openly questioned her ability to understand why hunters leave their families for days or even weeks at a time to pursue game in Idaho’s wilds. Siddoway worried she might side with non-game animals over game species, on issues pitting the two against each other.

“She had gone hunting with her husband a couple of times, deer hunting, but she had not hunted,” Siddoway said. “Her passion for hunting and fishing, I submit to you, is not there.”

Through several weeks of controversy over Hurlock’s credentials, Otter stuck by her, insisting she’d won the job through a transparent vetting process.

After Monday’s vote, his aides said he’d be meeting with Lieutenant Gov. Brad Little on the next steps to fill the posting.

“The governor is disappointed by the vote this afternoon in the Senate,” Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian, said.

For his part, Siddoway said his suspicions about Hurlock emerged last June at the Idaho Republican Party Convention in Twin Falls, when he said now-House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, introduced the two.

According to Siddoway’s account, Bedke “stuck his finger in my chest” and told Hurlock, “This guy is going to be your worst nightmare.”

On Monday, Bedke recalled the exchange but said he wasn’t trying to ignite a conflict, but merely making light of the fact that Hurlock and Siddoway would cross paths during the 2013 Senate confirmation hearings.

“I certainly didn’t see any type of a conflict regarding her legislative confirmation,” Bedke said.

Following Monday’s vote, Hurlock was crestfallen. She said she sought the commission appointment to encourage more children to take up outdoor pursuits. She was recommended unanimously by an eight-member panel appointed by Otter to vet candidates last year.

“I gave it my best shot, and I worked hard for this,” she said.

Hurlock said she’s held Idaho hunting licenses in 1999, 2000 and 2012, a fishing license in 2003, and grew up accompanying her father, a California game warden, on numerous excursions into the outdoors.

“I have fished throughout my life,” Hurlock said. “I didn’t know I needed to keep an attendance record.”

She also said Siddoway, a rancher, and other opponents turned against her because she told them Idaho was obligated to follow federal law when managing wolves, rather than adopting a more ideological approach. Idaho now has more than 700 of the predators, and some would prefer the state more aggressively slash their numbers, to protect livestock and elk.

“They want to hear the answer that we should be able to kill wolves, all the time and in any way,” Hurlock said. “I would hope you would want a commissioner who is going to comply with the law.”

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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