SANDPOINT ó There isnít much Tom Whalen hasnít seen as conservation officer for Idaho Department of Fish and Game during his decades-long career.
Whalen, along with fellow IDFG conservation officer Rick Bogar and Nancy Kasner, Panhandle region administrative officer, was recently honored by the Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Avista and IDFG upon their retirement. The celebration was held, appropriately enough at the Sandpoint Fish Hatchery on Lakeshore Drive in Sagle, the same location as IDFGís Waterline Education Center.
Though Whalen retired after 31 years with the agency, he was recognized in great part for his last 20 years of service collaborating with local members and various Avista personnel on efforts to mitigate and help in bull trout recovery efforts on the Clark Fork.
Among those efforts were the relicensing ofthe Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids dams in 1999 to continue operations for another 40-year period. Whalen was assigned to facilitate IFGís interests in the collaborative efforts in 1999 when the Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids dams underwent relicensing. Whalen was assigned to facilitate IFGís interests in the collaborative efforts during that process.
Since 1999, IFG and the local TU group have worked with Avista to ensure mitigation to ensure management of the dams complied with fisheries management requirements and mitigations established under the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement.
Prior to that agreement the dams operated under management directives of the prior 50-year lease. The Clark Fork Settlement Agreement changed directives to mitigate and better comply with regulations particularly centering around endangered species issues related to bull trout management.
Whalen, whose duties will now be handled by conservation officer Nate Masin, served the drainage area as a game warden and also to educate children and adults on bull trout regulations, the reasons for them and how they are being implemented. Trout Unlimited members worked closely with Whalen in that capacity and in accordance with terms set forth in the agreement.
Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited members said they attended the celebration to honor the friendships and responsibilities established by Whalen during the 20 years of his work attached to the settlement agreement.
Trout Unlimited and Whalen collaborated with Avista to ensure mitigation was done properly and to protect spawning areas common to native bull trout as much as possible and to otherwise mitigate these issues through grant funding.
Mitigation to protect bull trout and preserve survival of the species took on a more regulated nature when relicensing of the operations of the two Clark Fork River dams came up for renewal.
Mitigations to protect native Bull Trout and preserve survival of the species took on a more regulated nature when relicensing of the operations of the two Clark Fork River dams came up for renewal.
Thatís when ongoing members of the Panhandle Chapter of TU stepped up to work with Whalen in the oversight and public education of AVISTAís strong efforts to assist in recovery management of the endangered species.
Avista Director Sean Moran, who coordinated mitigation efforts with the Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited and IDFG, recognized Whalen, saying he had a unique ability to teach people of all ages and deftly handle issues that occurred as the relicensing took effect.
Bogar and Kasner also deserve a great deal of praise and thanks for their many years of service, IDFG Director Ed Schriever said.
He said Bogar, who served as a conservation officer in the Idaho Panhandle for 27 years, was dedicated, persistent and brave ó all qualities praised by his fellow IDFG co-workers. Those years of service set a high standard for new game wardens in the state, Schriever said.
Kasner, who served as administrative officer in the Panhandle for 35 years was recognized as valuable coordinator for the department in North Idaho.
Growing from a shy office person to a coordinating anchor for the department, Kasner was a valuable employee for IDFG, Schriever said.
Because of their contributions, Craig Walker, IDFG regional enforcement officer for the Idaho Panhandle, said he the pleasure of awarding both Whalen and Bogar registered ownership of their service weapons in honor of their respective years of service.
Trout Unlimited members stressed the importance of Whalenís role in collaborations between Avista and the local chapter, pointing out that he regularly attended the groupís board meetings on behalf of IDFG. In appreciation, Whalen was presented with a one-year membership to Trout Unlimited ó as well as a hint that the door would be open for Whalen to join the groupís so long as he maintained membership.
While all three were honored during the retirement celebration, Whalenís role in collaborating with Avista and Trout Unlimited garnered the longtime conservation officer a bit of extra attention.
He was presented with a top notch fly fishing gear, including a Temple Fork Outfitters TFO 9-foot,5-weight fly rod and reel as well as a weight-forward fly line lacking only leader material by TU member Dave Gilmor of Sagle.
Whalen was also awarded a Kootenai River float trip by Trout Unlimited. Starting at Leonia, Montana, with licensed river guide, Steve Shaw, serving the Linehan Outfitting Company, Shaw will guide Whalen to the Idaho border where he will transfer to Gilmorís boat to continue the float on the Idaho side.
Feature correspondent Dwayne Parsons can be reached for comment or storyline suggestions by email at email@example.com.