An animal advocate has been named to the Nevada Wildlife Commission - the first such appointment in recent memory to a board that has come under fire by critics who say it's unfairly stacked with hunters.
Karen Summers Layne is president of the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society. She was appointed to the nine-member policy board by Gov. Brian Sandoval on Oct. 3. Her appointment follows that of former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young in July.
"It's going to be an interesting position," Layne told The Associated Press.
Layne, 65, spoke against hunting black bears when the commission held hearings on instituting Nevada's inaugural bear season in 2010. The hunting season was ultimately approved and continues.
"I'm not a fan of bear hunting. That's not going to be a surprise to anybody," she said.
She also has worked on trapping regulations for the Mount Charleston region outside Las Vegas, an effort she said helped forge a working relationship with other members of the commission.
Commission Chairman Jack Robb said Layne and Young "bring a breadth of experience and knowledge" to the board.
"The wildlife issues we face today are not like those faced by our predecessors," Robb said. "The commission needs a diversity of perspectives to help address the unique and complex wildlife issues in Nevada."
But the news didn't go over well with some hunters.
Andrew Williams, 49, a sportsman from Fernley, said an animal advocate has no place on the commission that sets policy on how elk, mule deer and other big game species are managed - a task that includes setting annual quotas on how many tags are issued to hunters who want to kill them for meat or trophy antlers.
"Putting someone like that on the board is just a slap in the face to people who hunt and fish in this state," he said.
As a public representative on the commission, Layne said she hopes her involvement will bring greater awareness of public opinion when it comes to managing wildlife.
"I think you always have to temper what you want to do given the long history of the commission," she said. "I think the fact that the governor put me on the commission says a lot."
Trish Swain, founder of TrailSafe Nevada, a group seeking tougher trapping regulations, hailed Layne's appointment as "absolutely groundbreaking," but added the commission's newest member won't bring an immediate shift in wildlife management.
"I can't image how one new person will change the nature of the board," she said.
Kathryn Bricker, executive director of NoBearHuntNV, a group formed to oppose bear hunting, agreed.
"This is a token gesture but is one that is appreciated," Bricker said "There's going to be a lot of 8-1 votes."
Dennis Wilson, president of Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, conceded that Layne's appointment has caused a lot of angst among sportsmen.
"There are a number of members who are not happy," he said.
But Wilson said he knows Layne and spoke with her Wednesday.
"I know her and respect her," he said. "She is intelligent, passionate and professional. She is willing to listen, to carefully consider every angle.
"We are not going to always agree," Wilson said. "But our goal ... is to keep an open and communicative relationship with her so we can work together for the betterment of Nevada's wildlife."
Layne holds a doctorate degree in public administration, and is retired both from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the Las Vegas Police Department, where she worked as planning director.
She becomes only the sixth woman to serve on the commission.
During an interim legislative subcommittee hearing earlier this year, critics argued for the dissolution of the commission or the restructuring of the Department of Wildlife - the agency that implements wildlife management - to give "non-consumptive" animal lovers a greater say on wildlife issues.
"Our wildlife is a treasure," Swain said during a March hearing. "Today's tourist wants their wildlife alive."
Department of Wildlife officials and sportsmen groups said federal money along with fees paid by sportsmen fund most of the agency's budget. Groups such as Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and others also contribute big dollars for conservation efforts.
But some lawmakers said that doesn't mean hunters should dictate wildlife management.
Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, at the time said it was a "cultural problem" that hunters and trappers feel the agency's job to protect their interests.
Carlton said Tuesday that she welcomed Layne's appointment.
"I'm glad the governor has picked her and she will bring a good voice and work hard on the issues," she said.