Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore will retire in January after a 41-year career with the agency that manages everything from smallmouth bass to large predators like black bears, wolves and mountain lions.
Moore, 67, notified Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch Otter” and members of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission of his plans Tuesday.
“It’s with some trepidation that I retire because it’s the life I know and I love it,” he said. “At the same time, I have another life to lead out there, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the resources of the state as just another hunter, angler, hiker, boater — you name it — and to spend more time doing it with my five grandkids and now one great-grandson.”
Moore was hired by the department in 1977 to work as a temporary research biologist on a project evaluating salmon spawning habitat above irrigation diversions in the upper Salmon River Basin. Aside from a one-year hiatus when he served as director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2006-07, he has spent his entire career with the agency. Moore was hired to lead the department in 2011.
His accomplishments as director include: securing a fee increase for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses and tags in 2017, along with related provisions to address both crop damage by deer and elk and also secure funding for hunting and angling access to private land; managing an elk population that is growing in many but not all parts of the state; successfully leading the agency through the delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act; and a recent agreement that promises to protect public access to Idaho endowment lands.
Moore heaped praise on the employees of the department and said the agency is in good shape for the future.
“We don’t have to be shy at all,” he said. “We are good at what we do, and I’m proud to be associated with that. It’s been an honor.”
He pointed to the department’s management of species like sage grouse and wolverines that have kept them off the endangered species list. He said the state’s management of bull trout could soon see that species removed from federal protection.
“We have been able to do a lot of good things together with the commission, the public and the department staff to get us to what I think is a very strong agency that I think has stability for the next five to 15 years.”
Moore, who spent most of his career as a fisheries biologist, said he shares the public’s disappointment with the recent downturn of salmon and steelhead runs, but he said those species are resilient and poised to make a comeback if ocean conditions improve.
“We know what we have in place is capable of working because we have seen it when the ocean is normal.”
But Moore cautioned that the state and the federal government need to deal with the challenges associated with climate change and high water temperatures in the ocean and lower Snake and Columbia rivers.
He said the next director and the department will be challenged by growing numbers of people interested in hunting and fishing in Idaho.
“Dealing with the concerns of crowding and limited access are going to be huge for sportsmen and outdoor recreationists,” he said. “Even in a public land state like Idaho we can have issues where folks are very sensitive to crowding and have strong opinions about how things should be managed.”
Commissioner Dan Blanco of Moscow said he sometimes differed with Moore but praised him for leading the agency’s efforts to manage gray wolves and other predators.
“Director Moore and I have frequently had frank exchanges of views on a variety of topics but when I think of Virgil I think his success in securing the delisting of wolves and providing for hunting and trapping of them as a game animal. He came within a hair’s breadth of doing the same thing for grizzly bears, save for a recent court decision. I wish him and his family the best for a retirement filled with hunting, fishing and fun with grandkids.”
Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday posted an advertisement for a new director and announced its intentions of conducting a national search for a new leader. Commission chairman Derick Attebury of Idaho Falls said Moore was a steady leader who did a great job. He’d like to find a new director who can balance the diverse requirements of the job.
“We will look for someone who is dynamic, who can work with sportsmen and women, who can manage the department and work with the commission and work with the Legislature,” he said. “It takes a pretty dynamic person to balance all of those entities.”
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