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PROCESS BEGINS TO TURN 2 WILDLIFE BOARDS INTO 1

For nearly a year, now, there has been talk of combining Utah's two wildlife boards into one.

Ted Stewart, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, says he would like to see the Utah Board of Big Game Control and the Utah Wildlife Board eliminated in favor of a one seven-person committee to rule over all of Utah's wildlife.As it now stands, the Big Game Board sets dates and quotas for all the state's big game hunts, including deer, elk, moose, buffalo and sheep. The Wildlife Board oversees control of all other wildlife issues, including waterfowl and fishing seasons and limits, and the controversial cougar/bear hunts.

The subject of a one-board system will likely come up Tuesday when members of the legislative wildlife management task force meets.

Over the years the two boards have clashed over a number of overlapping issues, but none has been more sensitive than the cougar/bear hunts. The control of cougars is important in deer herd management. In recent years, with deer numbers down, board members have not agreed on overall management strategy of the two species.

Stewart is also recommending that the new board members have no special interest or be tied into any geographic region.

Under the current program, the five-member big game board is comprised of representatives from cattle and sheep ranchers, public lands, the director of the DWR and a member representing sportsmen.

The five members of the wildlife board are appointed by geographical regions.

There has been an on-going study to review the current two-board system.

Sportsmen and official, now, are calling for a combining of the two boards. If it happens, it will likely take place during the next Legislative session in January.

Consensus is that the single board, supported to regional councils, which were created this year, will improve the system.

Sportsmen have for a long time complained about the imbalance in the big game board with only one sportsmen's representative and two from the agricultural community. Ranchers have also voiced the same concerns over the board's structure and the fact that the tie-breaking votes rests with the director of the DWR.