Jeremy Alford

Wildlife commission facing substantive changes

by Jeremy Alford

A House committee has approved a trio of bills aimed at changing the way the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission considers and adopts policies. After hours of debate earlier this week, the House Natural Resources Committee endorsed the bills and sent them to the full House for further consideration.

First Up: House Bill 529 by Rep. Billy R. Chandler, D-Dry Prong, is a constitutional amendment that would add new members to the commission and change the way membership is determined.

There are currently seven members of the commission appointed by the governor — six serve six-year staggered terms and one serves the same term as the governor in office. Furthermore, three members must be from coastal areas and represent commercial fishing and fur industries, while four must be from the state at large.

Chandler’s proposal would add two new members to the commission: one appointed from each Public Service Commission district and one more member appointed from the state at large. If approved by the Legislature, the constitutional amendment would face voters on Nov. 2, 2010.

The Deuce: House Bill 613 by Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, would allow lawmakers to have a hand in setting hunting season dates.

Presently, the commission has this authority, but Armes wants lawmakers to review and be able to reject hunting dates. He argues that the Legislature once had a “checks-and-balance” role in setting the seasons, but it was stripped years ago. “This bill is just for us to be able to override if we have a problem,” he says.

Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham counters that the system in place should not be changed, especially since the commission works so closely with the department’s biologists. “There is a difference in the political environment and the regulation of wild,” Barham says.

The Third Leg: House Bill 775 by Rep. John E. Guinn, R-Jennings, would alter the way the commission deals with public requests.

Presently, any interested person may petition the commission to request the adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule. Guinn’s proposed law would provide that the agency reviews the request and “provide timely notice to the person making the request indicating whether or not the agency intends to act on the request.”