Currently, the Department of Parks and Recreation is governed by a board of six people, each representing a different region in Idaho. Board members are appointed by the Governor based on professional relevance. The board has the power “to appoint a director to serve at its discretion” (Title 67, Chapter 42, Idaho Code). HB 496 would remove the board’s appointment powers and hand it directly to the Governor, undoing decades of tradition of merit-based, collective hiring.
In 1965 Idaho Governor Robert E. Smylie created the IDPR and its board to professionally manage a system of state parks available for the enjoyment of all Idaho’s citizens and visitors. With knowledge of how drastically different natural resources were managed with each political turnover, and motivated by the Harriman brothers’ ranch donation incumbent on the establishment of a professional Parks and Rec agency, Smylie relinquished direct political appointment to a board who would hire a Director on merit alone, free from partisanship.
Rep. Joe Palmer (R-Meridian) introduced the bill to undo Governor Smylie’s legacy. It was killed by a 6-6 split. But then, a couple days later, the bill was revived and passed out of committee to the House Floor.
This bill is not exactly great for all those who enjoy professional management of our natural areas.
And, it’s specifically a loss for sportsmen too. See, Harriman Ranch State Park is a world class trout fishery and fly fishing destination. It was donated to the State of Idaho only as long as IDPR staff are not politically appointed. If IDPR employees are chosen by the Governor instead of a board, it would be a direct violation of the Harriman gift agreement. A violation of the gift deed would result in the return of the park to the Harriman family.
Fill out the letter below to send a letter to your legislator on the issue.
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