Thirty years ago this week, a trapper named Claude Dallas gunned down two Idaho Department of Fish and Game wardens trying to arrest him for poaching in Owyhee County. After felling them with a .357 Magnum, he shot each in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

In so doing, Dallas fundamentally changed the relationship between the West and those charged with preserving its resources.

Before Jan. 5, 1981, we had wilderness rangers; ever since we’ve had wilderness policemen. The conservation officer who checks your fishing license nowadays is more likely than not to be armed.

Coming as it did a few weeks before Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, the murders of Officers Bill Pogue and Conley Elms turned out to be one of the defining events of the Sagebrush Rebellion. And as much as any other single incident, it served to turn land users and land managers into adversaries.

That tension persists to this day, echoed in former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell’s call for citizens of Idaho County to kill wolves and dare the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do anything about it. Rammell is also charged with poaching an elk near Idaho Falls and then threatening a Fish and Game officer who took it away.

We used to have by consensus a resource management partnership in this state; now we have us vs. them.

In some cases that strain is driven by concerns that are germane, such as federal intervention in what was a largely successful wolf management experience by the state.

But too often, folks who are angry with the government about Obamacare take it out on those we hire to protect our land, our water and our wildlife.

Dallas did 22 years for voluntary manslaughter, but the foreman of the Canyon County jury that convicted him said later Dallas might have been acquitted of all charges had Dallas not delivered the coup de grace to Elms and Pogue. That’s remarkable.

Without officers such as Pogue and Elms on the front lines, Idaho wouldn’t have a wildlife resource left to save.

Dallas, celebrated in story, song and a made-for-TV movie, was never a hero or a defender of traditional Western values. He’s a stone-cold killer.

And, to a large degree, Dallas left us with the uneasy resource management relationship we have today.

(7) comments


I find it discusting that he only did 22 years for a very cowardly act.
I would like for F and Game to have better people skills but because they lack that, it is no reason to murder them.
It would be very easy to have anger management added to concealed weapons permit training and safety hunting course.
Owning a gun brings great responsibility. Threatening the government and its officer is no way to abuse that right.


Wearing a badge brings great responsibility, and doesn't give the wearer the right to be abusive. Unfortunately all too often it sends them on a "power trip", and the public pay the price.


Oh my God, you are really reaching on this one. Couldn't find a bigger paint brush?


So, MagicValleyReader, are you defending Claude Dallas, the double murderer, because the men he executed wore badges?


The editor should have done more research. He almost walked because until the .22 was used it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt he was defending himself. One of the officers that day happened to be well known for his John Wayne, bullying antics. Sadly the other officer was known for being a very nice guy. It was a nasty tragedy all the way around but the sentence was what the law allowed.


All these years later the comments for and opposed still fly. What's done is done. There ain't no changing that. Is there a lesson to be learned? Yes. Those who wear the badge, wear it and act in accordance with the authority granted within the privledge. Don't let a uniform swell your head or turn you into a Super Hero. Use manners and discretion and good judgement. You'll get alot better results. Do I side with Dallas' act. No. If that Pogue was acting like he was in a Wild West Wild Bill Hickock Show Did he deserve his fate? NO. Am I sorry it happened? Not at all.


Hi, I was just outside Hay river when this incident happened
Everyone thought Mr Dallas, with his skills would try to flee to Northern Canada to hide
Not knowing much at the time , we were all worried about a fugitive "killer" coming here
As I have aged and learned more about the police services in Canada and the States, I see we have many "cowboys" who are legally allowed to carry guns
I cannot agree with what Mr Dallas did, but I can say that especially here in Canada, we have lost the right to defend ourselves and our homes and families
Instead, we are supposed to call 911 and hope the "(cowboys"called the RCMP) defend us
I hope you people in the States never lose the right to defend yourself, even if it is against corrupt cowboys
We also have them here in Canada, in particular here in Alberta......I once respected police forces, until I saw that `cowboys`somehow end up getting to drive fast cars and carry guns
Very scary.......police forces
Pogue always sounded like a `cowboy`

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