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The Lehmans and Other Sportsmen

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The Lehmans and Other Sportsmen

From the Game Trail



I just got back from working the Bonner County Fair at our Idaho Fish & Game booth and realized I’m way past my deadline for this article. I have a feeling the Calm Center of Tranquility (AKA Trish Gannon) is no longer calm or tranquil, thanks to me. I consider myself somewhat organized and ahead of the curve, but when it comes to writing this article, I must need the last minute pressure to get this sucker completed!

This month’s topic hit me like a ton of bricks as I drove away from the fairgrounds. I had just walked out of the Lehman Wildlife Building and replaying in my brain were all the comments from folks as they passed through. The majority of people stated how much they enjoy making the wildlife building part of their fair experience, and how the wildlife is the highlight of the fair for their kids. We are truly lucky to have a fair that’s still all about the kids and the 4H program, along with a little bit of local wildlife.

Interestingly enough, folks think that the Idaho Fish & Game support and maintain that building. As a matter of a fact I had one grumpy man, surrounded by his children, chew my butt for Idaho Fish & Game wasting money constructing such an elaborate building, and having enough money to send all those animals to the taxidermist. I started to explain how the building was funded, but he didn’t want to hear anything of it; in his mind IDFG was still wasting money. Well, you just can’t fix that kind of stupidity and ignorance. Sometimes I wonder why we have to get a background check to purchase a gun, but not to breed? I digress.

The truth of the Lehman Wildlife Building is that it took a pile of community effort and a very special couple, Ed and Pat Lehman, to construct this gem. The Lehmans built the wildlife education center at the fairgrounds in Coeur d’Alene and our wildlife building at the Bonner Fairgrounds is copy of that building. The concrete slab was poured in July of 1999 and the doors flung open for the first time during the fair of that same year. The Lehmans painted all the murals we see today and built the papier mache scenery displays. 

Unfortunately, Ed had to step aside a few years back to due to health concerns and the Bonner County Sportsmen’s Association filled an important void in maintaining the building as it does today. One man in particular, Oz Osborn, has dedicated much time and effort to the building. He is the guardian of the building, so to speak, and you may find him sweeping the sand up under the animal tracks table or checking on the temperature of the water to ensure the fish are lively for the kids. Thanks, Oz, for all the great work!

I got a little bit sidetracked there detailing the history of the Lehman Wildlife building because I really want to sing the praises of the Bonner County Sportsmen’s Association as well. I guess the building was a good lead-in, because it’s one of many things the BCSA has done in Bonner County in its almost 80 years of existence. The BCSA is the oldest conservation organization in Idaho!

To give you some insight into the ethics and philosophies of this group I’ll reprint the BCSA mantra originally printed on the third and fourth annual banquet program of 1935 and 1936. (Thanks to Oz Osborn and Kathy Konek for sharing this history.)

“The Bonner County Sportsmen’s Association is a non-partisan organization, the object of which is to increase fish and game and to protect the natural resources of northern Idaho. It is an aim as members to obey our fish and game laws 100 percent.

“We believe that a true sportsman will ask permission to hunt and fish on private lands. That he will use care in handling small fish which he plans to turn back in the stream. That in the name of conservation he will not be wasteful with fish and game. That he will shoot his game and catch his fish by God’s light only. That he will trail his game at least 300 yards after shooting even though he thinks the animal unwounded. That he will make an honest effort to trail and “finish” all wounded animals. That he will not shoot at unknowing moving objects in the woods. That he will realize that carelessness with is wastefulness with game and natural resources. Be a True Sportsman­—Protect for the Future!”

The accomplishments, generosity, and foresight of the BCSA are so numerous it would take a book to capture all the details; however I will try to share some of the earlier goals. BCSA continues to work with IDFG on resolving tough issues and having honest discussion that benefits all.

Here are some highlights of the early years.  Between 1935 and 1945 BCSA helped establish a 50,000-acre game preserve in the Trestle Creek area east to the Montana state line; helped plant 50 elk in that preserve; brought in 100,000 Kamloops eggs to Lake Pend Oreille; helped in a resolution with IDFG to reopen year-round fishing on LPO for Bull Trout and Kokanee; approved $10.50 for seven Fish & Game personnel (the pay is not much different these days!); made a formal request for a permanent game warden in Bonner County; petitioned the local judge to increase fines on poaching; and requested more Game Wardens be posted in Bonner County due to an increase in poaching.

The above is just a small snippet of the rich history of the BCSA. Today we can thank them for the Gun & Horn Show, Annual Antler Contest, numerous donations to shooting ranges and clubs, countless hours donated to projects with IDFG, equipment for IDFG, and scholarships for local youth.

Their meetings are at the Leo Hadley Range in Sandpoint across from City Hall on Lake Street the first Thursday of every month at 7 pm.

I hope you got a chance to visit the fair this year. Now I need to go find a cave to hide in—it’s just too darn hot!

Leave no child inside.

Editor’s note: Visit the River Journal website (www.riverjournal.com) and click on “Photos,” then choose “2011 Bonner County Fair” to view pictures of the Lehman Wildlife Building from this year’s Bonner County fair.



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Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

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