Game and Fish Agencies Face Wave of Retirements

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As many members of the “baby boom generation” reach their mid-60s, state and federal fish and wildlife agencies are facing a wave of retiring biologists, managers and wildlife specialists – leaving many important positions to be filled across the board. You’ll also read about actions taken by Missouri to halt the spread of chronic wasting disease, and much more!

West Virginia DNR Braces for Wave of Retirements
In coming months, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources will lose at least 20 veteran biologists, wildlife managers and assistant chiefs to retirement — accounting for roughly 600 years of experience — according to a recent report.

DNR Wildlife Chief Curtis Taylor said the situation isn’t unique to West Virginia’s state game agency, as departments across the country are faced with aging staff members who are approaching retirement age.

In the coming months West Virginia will lose 20 veteran biologists, wildlife managers to retirement.
In the coming months, West Virginia will lose 20 veteran biologists, wildlife managers to retirement.

“It’s the baby boomers. Our dads all came home from World War II, got married, started working, raised us, and we all went into wildlife biology,” Taylor recently told Metro News Outdoor Journal columnist Chris Lawrence. “In our outfit, you’re not likely to leave. Unfortunately our vocation is our avocation.”

Taylor has been with the agency for 36 years. He joked he probably didn’t have enough time to attend all of the retirement luncheons he’s been invited to in the weeks ahead.

While Taylor said his agency needs to fill jobs, “from top to bottom,” he said that other agencies are in the same situation.

“We’re in competition for the best minds with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Corps of Engineers, every other state wildlife agency, and private companies who now need wildlife and fisheries people on their staffs,” he said.

Missouri Moves to Regulate Preserves, Prevent CWD
The Missouri Conservation Commission last week unanimously voted to approve regulations regarding the operation of hunting preserves and wildlife breeding facilities that hold whitetail, mule deer, their hybrids, and other cervids, in an effort to prevent the spread of CWD and other diseases

Actions by the Commission include:

  • Banning the importation of live white-tailed deer, mule deer, and their hybrids from other states. The regulation still allows for the importation of semen for artificial insemination.
  • Requiring all facilities, existing and new, to maintain or construct a single 8-foot fence following specific standards detailed in the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Existing facilities would have 18 months to bring fencing into compliance.
  • Requiring Class I and Class II wildlife breeders and big-game hunting preserves to test all mortalities of deer that are older than six months for chronic wasting disease and allow permittees to apply for an exemption from mandatory testing requirements in the event of a mass-casualty event.
  • Set requirements for disease testing, record-keeping, reporting disease test results, and complying with an established disease response plan in the event a disease is discovered.
  • Prohibiting any new captive-cervid facilities within 25 miles of a confirmed chronic wasting disease location for five years.

The regulation changes become effective Jan. 30, 2015.

National Bobwhite Restoration Effort Approved for P-R Funding
With the approval and assistance of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, participating states and the University of Tennessee, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is now eligible for financial support from states through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, commonly referred to as “Pittman-Robertson.”

A unified, habitat-based 25-state endeavor, NBCI was already the most comprehensive interstate effort on behalf of a resident game bird in the history of wildlife management, as well as a model for regional conservation initiatives for other state trust species.

The Conservation Improvement Program was pilot-tested in 2013 by six states – Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and Virginia – and several additional states already are in the process of implementing it, including Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Oklahoma.

“Pittman-Robertson funding not only substantially increases the financial support to do what we’ve said from the beginning needed to done, it also stabilizes that support so we can concentrate more intensely on actually getting the priority work done,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie.

Restrictive Firearms Ordinance Doesn’t Play in Peoria
“Will it play in Peoria?” is a historic figure of speech traditionally used to ask if a particular product, theme or idea is compatible with Main Street America’s customs and values.

Apparently, a restrictive firearms regulation earlier included in the Northern Illinois city’s weapons ordinance clearly didn’t play in Peoria. The ordinance, which required the submissions of a buyer’s thumbprint for the purchase of any handgun in the city limits was repealed October 14 in the wake of threatened legal action by the Illinois State Rifle Association.

During its regular session last week, the Peoria City Council approved a measure that vacated portions of the deadly weapons ordinance without discussion, as reported by The Peoria Journal Star. Under the ordinance, handgun purchasers would have been required to submit a right thumbprint and a signature. The certificate that included the thumbprint was to be submitted to the police department within 24 hours of the purchase.

“Ultimately, it was decided that the City Council should repeal the entire section of the ordinance, which required thumbprints of handgun purchasers, and which contained other provisions adversely impacting handgun possession, transportation and transfers,” said ISRA general counsel Victor Quilici.

The repeal of the ordinance was effective immediately.

Quote of the Week
“For the hunter, fall is the island and the rest of the year is the swim.”
– Charles Fergus,
A Rough-Shooting Dog, 1991

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at jrabsher@me.com.

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