Wyoming G&F director stepping down

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Wyoming wildlife manager resigns

By MIKE STARK, Billings Gazette Wyoming Bureau

5/7/02

After six years as Wyoming's top wildlife manager, John Baughman announced on Monday that he's calling it quits.

Baughman, appointed as director of the Game and Fish Department in 1996, will step down May 17.

"I've been thinking about this for months, and it's time to try something else," Baughman said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. "I have no immediate plans other than a little more fishing and looking for a job."

He said his six-year tenure is about twice the average for other wildlife directors in the West.

"Even if things are going right, it comes time to do something different," he said.

Gov. Jim Geringer said Baughman has maintained the department's reputation as "the premier game and fish management organization in the country."

"I would rather have John stay on, but I honor his request with regret and wish him the best," Geringer said in a written statement.

Baughman, a 28-year veteran of the department, denied that his departure was significantly influenced by the Wyoming Legislature's recent decision not to approve trust fund that would have helped fund key wildlife programs.

"There's a hundred things going on all the time, and it's a combination of things," he said. "But I'm certainly disappointed we didn't do better on the legacy trust, and I hope the state will continue that dialogue."

Baughman said he's been pleased with improvements within the department during his tenure, including work on access to public lands, funding, hatcheries and a key habitat plan.

But the most important accomplishment, he said, was putting together the department's staff.

"I've been really fortunate to have the opportunity to hire and promote a lot of people. We've put together an excellent staff," he said. "That's what I take pride in."

There have been some disappointments too, particularly with how divisive wildlife issues have become in Wyoming.

"I really regret that people in Wyoming use such uncivil behavior on these big issues," he said. "They seem to just line up and throw rocks at each other rather than work together in a productive way."

Baughman also said he wished he could have seen grizzly bears taken off the Endangered Species List during his watch.

That issue will certainly be waiting for the next director, along with delisting wolves, finding additional funding for the department, chronic wasting disease, sage grouse habitat and a laundry list of other challenges, Baughman said.

"The biggest issue will be getting people to talk about these things and building consensus," he said.

Game and Fish Commission member Gary Lundvall, of Cody, said he didn't know anything about Baughman's resignation until a reporter contacted him Monday morning.

"I'm as shocked as probably everybody else is," he said.

Baughman didn't mention anything about leaving at the commission's meeting last month, Lundvall said.

"John was a good director," he said. "I had a good working relationship with him. We didn't always agree, but we agreed to disagree."

Geringer said he plans on consulting with commission members about whether to appoint an interim director or begin the search for a permanent director. Lundvall said he'd prefer an interim director until a new governor is elected later this year.

Baughman said that although he may take a job in another state, he knows he'll return.

"I plan on making Wyoming my long-term home," he said.

For now, he's planning on relaxing, fishing and sitting down at the computer to draw up a resume for his first job hunt since 1974.

Any final regrets?

"I wish I could make it rain," Baughman said.



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Mike Stark can be reached at (307)527-7250 or at mstark@billingsgazette.com.
 

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