July 3, 2002
The rebuttal by Don Clower to Fish and Game Chairman Marcus Gibbs' comments follows the pattern of mixing facts with half-truths that we have frequently seen in recent months. Clower strides the political stage in this election season as a sort of modern combination of Zeus and Diogenes to the delight of the editorial board rooms, but unfortunately the facts are the casualty.At the discussion with Sando, Chairman Gibbs did not offer the director a choice of take $50,000 and resign or be fired. Clower's statement is simply not true. The chairman's statements were that he felt the commission would agree to continuation of salary and benefits for six months if he intended to resign. The votes to fire the director were not there in any case, so the "or be fired" allegation is without basis.
Having said that, I would note that Clower's rebuttal is simply an evasion of each point noted by Chairman Gibbs.
Clower excuses his record on motions to go into executive session by saying they "were only to start the meeting." Why would anyone make a motion to do something he feels would result in inappropriate discussions? Why would he not speak up in any session where he felt the topic was not legitimate?
Apparently Clower feels that the Legislature can perform its function only with advance approval of the commission. Unfortunately for his feelings, the elected representatives of the state's citizens have the legal role of enacting the Fish and Game annual budget, including legislative direction. The $300,000 project he finds so disturbing was legally enacted, and it is the commission's obligation to ensure it is carried out - whether or not he thinks the cart was in front of the horse.
In a somewhat similar vein, Clower sidesteps his dramatic shift in position on the grizzly bear plan. He had strong concerns that were incorporated in the commission's recommendations to the Legislature. At the last minute, however, when faced with the position of those favoring expansion of grizzly range, and whose support he desired, he took the tack of objecting to any commission recommendations for changes in the draft plan.
Clower's sole response on large predator management was to point out that in one other location electronic calls for lion hunting are authorized. He doesn't respond to the increases in quotas in the region he represents. He is also silent on his personally managed small predator trapping project, which was opposed by department personnel.
Strangely, Clower now praises the voting pattern of the commission. He says more than 75 percent of the votes have been unanimous, and that is "quite a statement about working toward the same goals." Actually, it's more like 95 percent of the votes have been unanimous.
But, given this sudden praise for the commission votes, one does have to wonder about his previous statements to the media on the same question. Not long ago he excused his voting record as simply an effort on his part to get along with the commissioners. Which is it? Working together or just getting along?
Then too, if he feels the commissioners are working so well toward the same goals, one has to really wonder what all the fuss is about. What needs to be "reformed"? Why his initiative in the first place? Or, is this simply the time to spread a little sugar instead of throwing bombs?
Regardless, the question remains - what does Clower actually stand for and why doesn't the press ask him? Does he favor managing predators at a level necessary to maintain and restore our game? Does he favor or oppose breaching the Snake River dams? Does he feel the Legislature and chief executive of Idaho are responsible for the water policies of the state? Should the state of Idaho speak with one voice on crucial policies? Does he favor grizzly bear importation and expansion of grizzly range? Does he support the department director and his management decisions to date?
These and other questions are the real issues. None of the other commissioners has a problem with simple yes or no answers. The positions of most of us are on the record. But where Clower stands remains a mystery.
Burns represents Region VII on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
This editorial originally appeared in the Idaho Falls Post