June 26, 2002
Some have recently advocated that the Fish and Game Commission, and the former director´s resignation, be used as a political campaign issue in the forthcoming elections. This comes on the heels of the general conclusion that the so-called Fish and Game "reform" initiative has failed to gather the necessary signatures to be placed on the ballot.
We find it an ironic line of thinking that the failure of the "take-politics-out-of-Fish- and-Game" initiative somehow justifies an all-out effort to make it a political and election issue. Most realize that the proposed "reform" was merely a poorly disguised effort to place control in the hands of a small but vocal clique.
The fact is that the public saw through this maneuver, in spite of an all-out media blitz praising the initiative and condemning the commission and governor for the former director´s resignation. Now, it is public information that Rod Sando has been appointed executive director of the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority, a position which the commission was aware he was seeking prior to his departure.
At the time Sando chose to resign, the commission granted his request that the circumstances not be publicly discussed. Unfortunately, this placed the commission in the position of not being able to respond to the spin placed on events by the media, Commissioner Don Clower, and others.
Following Sando´s resignation, the media has consistently avoided informing the public of some critical factors which are matters of record. For example, consider the following:
Sando and then-Chairman Fred Wood, met in October 2001 and discussed, among other things, Sando´s intention to possibly leave the department. On Nov. 30, 2001, Sando informed Wood and Vice Chairman Gibbs "his resume was on the street." Clower was aware of this fact but instead chose to publicly imply that the director´s departure was forced by the governor and the commission.
Some consider Clower to be a steadfast opponent of commission executive sessions, and he presents himself in this context while condemning other commissioners. Yet last year he moved to go into executive session more frequently than any other member and voted affirmatively in all cases. Eleven sessions were held. Clower initiated five of them and voted "yes" for all.
By far the most aggressive commissioner on predator control has been Clower. He initiated, supervised and directed trapping operations for small predators in the Nampa region, an arrangement between him and the former director which bypassed the regional supervisor.
He has also been aggressive on the taking of large predators, including instituting the use of electronic calls for cougar hunting in the Nampa region, the only area where such calls may be used for game species.
Clower increased quotas for female cougars in his region, as well as permitting the male season to remain open once the quota was reached.
Throughout the review of the draft Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Management Plan, Clower expressed unhappiness with the plan. At the final commission review which followed Sando´s resignation- he reversed his position and was critical of the commission´s recommendations which had incorporated his earlier concerns.
Prior to his appointment to the commission, Clower was often abusive in his newsletter comments about elected officials, commission members and others. During questioning at his confirmation hearing, he excused his record by stating it was simply "bomb-throwing" to motivate his constituents and build enthusiasm for his cause.
Clower was long aware that the list of organizations supposedly endorsing the proposed initiative was not accurate. No apology has been forthcoming from either him or his associates for using the names of certain organizations without authorization or verification. It was left to those being misrepresented to make clear their position.
The views of the individual commissioners will at times differ. Opposing viewpoints and debate are healthy, in any event, at no time has the governor or his staff sought to control those views, or the action of the commission. As commissioners, we simply have no sense of where Clower stands on the key wildlife issues.