COMMENTARY: As a former wildlife commissioner for the last three years, I feel I have firsthand knowledge about wildlife issues in Nevada. The article by Pete Mori in your newspaper on July 14 titled “Set the wildlife record straight” must have been written by NDOW director Ken Mayer because there were quite a few inaccuracies in the article. I will straighten them out.
Heritage money, that being money derived from auction tags and donations, can only be spent on projects approved by the Wildlife Commission. Since the inception of Heritage money, the majority of the funds were spent on bighorn sheep projects. In essence, this money should have been spent on two species that were declining, namely mule deer and sage grouse, rather than bighorn sheep, whose numbers were increasing. Never was a dollar spent for predator control. This changed with Governor Gibbons’ appointments to the Wildlife Commission.
Governor Gibbons’ appointments to the Wildlife Commission approved projects that included predator control to enhance mule deer and sage grouse. I was proud to have served on the committee that approver those projects. Some of Pat Laughlin’s projects were for the removal of ravens to enhance sage grouse. Director Ken Mayer fought against all of these approved predator control projects for over two years. Had director Ken Mayer approved these projects, an extension would not have been needed.
Everyone involved (who will tell the truth) with these projects knows it was Ken Mayer who was responsible for this denial. Director Mayer blatantly ignored Governor Gibbon’s order to cooperate with the Commission and carry out the Commission’s policies according to statute. Pete Mori was not on the Commission during this time frame and probably wasn’t aware of the conflict between the commission and Director Mayer.
Another area where Pete Mori was wrong was about the number of ravens that could be removed. The Las Vegas Dump located in Apex had an estimated 4,000 ravens. Wildlife Services removed 3,000 of them. They were able to do this because the proper authorities honored this request. Ken Mayer did not do this for raven control in Elko County! All of Sandoval’s appointments to the Wildlife Commission, led by Chairman Mike McBeath, voted to deny the extension. Ken Mayer and the Wildlife Commission do not believe in predator control. Their votes, in denying the money for raven control, proves this point.
In 2001, the Legislature passed a law granting money to be used for predator control. The original intent was that it was to be used for mule deer. However, it did not say that specifically in the bill. There are many areas where deer numbers have increased because this money was used for the removal of lions and coyotes. It appears that Mr. Mori is pleased that the predator money which has been used for deer will now be switched to sage grouse. This shows that Mr. Mori could care less about bringing back our deer.
When the sage grouse is listed, let’s put the blame squarely on the people who failed to act. They are Ken Mayer and Governor Sandoval’s appointments to the Wildlife Commission. They were in a position of authority to do something and they didn’t. They are more concerned about spending resources on bighorn sheep. I’m sure they will have a bogus excuse for their failures.
I sent a letter to Governor Sandoval stating that I did not wish to be re-appointed to the Wildlife Commission. I believe that as long as Ken Mayer is the director and Governor Sandoval’s appointments do not have the fortitude to stand up against Ken Mayer, sportsmen and wildlife will suffer in our state. Sandoval’s wildlife commissioners have already shown they will rubber stamp anything NDOW wants. I feel confident that someday I will be able to tell Governor Sandoval “I told you so.”
In closing, Pete Mori may not have liked the article written by Cecil Fredi, but he tells the truth, unlike some NDOW employees.
Charlie Howell is a former wildlife commissioner who has been hunting and fishing in Nevada for more
than 65 years.