Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation and Wild Sheep Foundation Applaud Passage of Idaho Open Records Law Amendment

Idaho Governor Brad Little recently signed a bill that closed a harmful loophole in the state’s open records law. Previously, an unethical person could use the Open Records law to request location information on specific wildlife, and agency professionals had no choice but to offer up the information. This amendment to the existing law provides an exemption for disclosure of specific wildlife locations, including GPS collar data.

“We were proud to have worked closely with Representative James Petzke on the language of this bill and believe it struck the right balance between protecting private landowners, hunters, agricultural producers, and the forest products industry from future incursions, while also respecting the needs of the press and professional wildlife managers to gather and distribute necessary information to the public,” said Josh Miller, President of the Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation. “We sincerely appreciate the leadership of Rep. Petzke on this important issue.”

It had become clear that in the last few years that some individuals have been abusing Idaho’s open records laws to get the exact GPS locations and collar frequencies of individual animals from the state fish and wildlife agency. In practice, this means that a person could walk straight to a particular individual animal and harvest that animal. Unfortunately, this practice has been used by some who have received difficult-to-draw controlled hunt tags, like bighorn sheep. In the view of the Wild Sheep Foundation family and many others, this practice violates Fair Chase principles and compromises wildlife research. Furthermore, this practice has been used by anti-hunters to harass law-abiding hunters and trappers.

Rep. Petzke’s bill, now an Idaho state law, exempts geographically specific wildlife data from the open records law, protecting this sensitive information from those who would use it to unethically locate wild sheep and other wildlife.

“The Wild Sheep Foundation was proud to support our partners at the Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation by adding the capacity of our policy team to the effort,” said Gray N. Thornton, President and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. “I want to thank Representative Petzke and Governor Little for their leadership in helping keep bighorn sheep on the mountain in Idaho and upholding the spirit of the chase.”

The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), based in Bozeman, Mont., was founded in 1977 by sportsmen and other wild sheep conservationists. WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep, having raised and expended more than $145 million, positively impacting these species through population and habitat enhancements, research and education, and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe, and Asia to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. In North America, these and other efforts have increased bighorn sheep populations from historic lows in the 1950s-60s of 25,000 to more than 85,000 today. WSF has a membership of more than 10,000 worldwide.