Current commission crop a cut above


Mar 11, 2001
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Current commission crop a cut above

June 05, 2003

By Darren Marcy, Farmington Daily Times Outdoor Editor

The current Game Commission scared the heck out of me when its members were first announced about five months ago.

I read through the little bios sent by the governor's office and thought Bill Richardson had gone overboard in trying to create a balanced commission.

Richardson, saying he was going to return the Game Commission to its original intent of managing all wildlife in the state, appointed seven people who, at first glance, looked like a meeting of the state's environmental lobby.

But having talked to these people well, all but one I'm convinced their titles and affiliations don't come close to revealing the quality of the choices Richardson made.

I say, "all but one," because despite repeated calls, messages and fax requests, I have yet to track down Guy Riordan over the course of about three months.

The rest, however, were prompt. Despite some reservations about a yahoo reporter from the opposite side of the state saying he wanted to tell the people "who they were and what they stood for," they called me back anyway.

All turned out to be slightly different than I first expected.

You glance at their governor's office-provided bios and they seem to be environmentalists, ranchers and businessmen.

But you dig a little deeper and you find hunters and anglers, people emphatically concerned with wildlife all species not the one or two they like to hunt and people willing to listen to balanced science and social issues and compromise to do what's right for the animals, the people, and the state in general.

In my short tenure following the state Game Commission about a decade I haven't seen much of that.

Often you'll have one or two people like that on a commission, sitting right next to a rancher who wants all predators killed on the spot, next to a hunter who wants to eliminate the Conservation Services Division and grow the deer herd, next to someone who wants to represent only the people's concern and hunt animals into oblivion with cheap, unlimited licenses.

There was usually one commissioner opposing another on most issues and a lot of apathy in general.

Let's face it, former Gov. Gary Johnson's appointments to the Game Commission were either hastily done with little thought for their qualifications or abilities, or they were out and out political favors.

Nothing else could explain a few of the bozos who sat on a couple of those commissions.

Most of you know who they were.

Fortunately, we were very lucky in that the appointees who represented our area of the state Gail Cramer and Karen Stevens were good commissioners. They made decisions that seemed fair to people, the animals, the habitat and the Department of Game and Fish.

Unfortunately a few of the yahoos they served with weren't quite so qualified.

It's my opinion that it was those yahoos who caused the governor to wipe the commission clean and appoint seven new people in January.

Unfortunately in doing that, he kicked several qualified people off the board in order to put his own names in those chairs.

But from the early returns, I think Richardson's appointees are actually pretty good choices.

I'm certainly not going to discount the idea that a few of the current commissioners are seated on the board because of some sort of a political favor.

And that's a real shame.

A board as important as the Game Commission needs to be a nonpolitical entity.

The commission, while seemingly serving only the hunting and angling community, actually should be serving the wildlife of the state, whether game or nongame.

In its job as an oversight board for the Department of Game and Fish, the Game Commission is responsible for the species that are hunted, and those that are not including threatened and endangered species.

Some of the past commissioners weren't interested in anything that couldn't take a bullet, and were perfectly willing to kill predators to protect those species disregarding anything that didn't serve their pet game animal.

I remember a meeting of the Habitat Stamp advisory committee I was serving on, where we were told that it didn't matter what kind of habitat work we wanted to accomplish, we had to call it a "mule deer project" to get past the commission.

The reason? Several of the sitting commissioners had told the department that no money would be spent on anything unless it benefited mule deer.

So we approved habitat burns for elk and called them deer habitat projects. We installed water projects for antelope and called them mule deer projects. Every project we suggested and forwarded to the Game Commission that year was a "mule deer project."

If I remember correctly, they were all approved.

Of course it was back then that the commission was pulling some interesting tricks.

Like the time a commissioner bolted for the parking lot on learning that the commission was going to have to discuss the lack of prairie chicken management, and he knew if he left, there wouldn't be a quorum and the issue wouldn't come up.

I saw that as a classic case of having his mind made up and not wanting to be confused by facts.

It's an unfortunate part of a political board where members are appointed by the governor and expected to make him happy.

So why don't we make the state Game Commission an elected board?

Candidates would be required to meet criteria similar to what they do now, and then they could run for the position in an open election.

I can't say it would work perfectly, but I doubt the commissioners would be any worse than a few we've seen come and go in the past.

Until this board can escape its political trappings, maybe we can hold their feet to the fire.

We need to stay informed, stay in contact with the appointed commissioners and show up at meetings to let them know how they're doing.

They may be appointed by the governor, but they work for us.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Darren Marcy is the outdoor editor for The Daily Times. His phone number is (505) 564-4627; his e-mail address is: .

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