Well, it's official. Utah is now a one-board wildlife state.
Instead of two groups deciding the future of Utah's wildlife, and sometimes crossing property lines to do it, now one group will. Deer, ducks and denizen of the deep - all are now under the umbrella of one board.First, congratulations to the noble seven. They got appointed by Gov. Mike Leavitt. They are Rick Danvir, Brenda Freeman, J. Collin Allan, Connie Brooks, Ray Heaton, Curtis Dastrup and Dr. Max Morgan.
Second, some advice. Do what's best for wildlife and everything else will fall into place.
And third, good luck. This first year won't be easy.
On quick review, the board appears to be a good mix. Danvir manages one of the finest private wildlife refuges in the country - Deseret Land and Livestock . . . Dr. Morgan was one of the most respected among the old guard and prior to going to med school focused his education on range ecology and wildlife management . . . Dastrup is a game biologist and a rancher . . . and Heaton is a rancher. A good cross section of wildlife interest.
Freeman, Allan and Brooks were, obviously, impressive in their interviews. Some very qualified people weren't selected.
There were some applicants who weren't right for the job and, to the committee's credit, none made it.
But now it's show time. In the next 30 days they will need to learn everything they don't know about wildlife management. They'll be forced to listen to every hunter and non-hunter they run into who can give them proof-positive advice and in rapid-fire order solve all of the state's wildlife woes.
But if this new committee is to truly succeed, it must forget people and look toward the wildlife. Manage for healthy, happy herds and the wants and needs of hunters will be fulfilled. Manage for fat and sassy fish and the wants and needs of fishermen will be met . . . all in due time.
If there is a fear, it is that the board will choose to try to make all of the people happy as much of the time as possible. Impossible. Don't try.
It should be noted that in going to the all-new board, some very good people are out of a job. For the most part, they've gotten little thanks for their work over the years. They took their responsibilities seriously and put forth the time needed to do their jobs.
William Burbage was one. He represented public lands on the Big Game Board. He was the balance of power for all of those years, and with rare exception he tilted the scales in the right direction. Voting by the livestock representatives traditionally followed party lines, and the same for the sportsman's representative. Burbage kept things in balance.
Merrill Miller (retired) and his successor, Jerry Mason, the sportsman's reps, deserve applause. Both represented their constituents well. They worked hard, knew the issues and, with very few exceptions, voted to benefit wildlife . . . and thereby hunters.
Newell Johnson (retired), the dreaded woolgrowers' rep, earned respect for his work, dedication and determinations. He studied the issues and came to meetings prepared. Sometimes his motives came under question.
Few board members ever worked as diligently as Jody Williams, chairperson of the Board of Big Game Control. She brought a new enthusiasm and interest to the wildlife board that seemed to draw in other members.
Warren Harward was another who deserves thanks. His understanding of the issues and level head led to the board making favorable decisions.
Dr. Paul Stringham was a member of the board for 25 years. He, too, had a deep appreciation for wildlife and worked hard to be fair and just.
And, of course, Bob Valentine, now director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, voting member of the Big Game Board and advisor/secretary to the Wildlife Board.
When Valentine joined the group some seven years ago there evolved a noticeable change in the board. Decisions didn't always some so quickly because board members took more time to study and ask questions.
If there is a concern about the new board, it is that Valentine, voice of the agency guarding our wildlife, is not there. Who knows more about what's right or wrong with our wildlife than their main keeper.