Gibbons' appointments met with ire, surprise

RENO " Gov. Jim Gibbons quietly appointed four new members to the Nevada Wildlife Commission, disregarding the wishes of some sportsmen and farmers' groups who fear the changes will mean a change of course for wildlife management in the state.

Commissioners Jack Robb of Reno and Jim Jeffress of Lovelock, two of five sportsmen representatives on the nine-member commission that sets wildlife policy, said they were informed Friday by the governor's counsel, Josh Hicks, that they would not be named to second terms.

Conservation groups and county advisory boards across the state had been lobbying for their reappointment since April, and initiated a petition drive and e-mail campaign urging Gibbons to name them to another term.

"We are pretty upset about what he's done here," Ken Wellington with the Elko County Wildlife Advisory Board said Monday.

Critics say the new appointments will shift the philosophical direction to one that focuses on mule deer as opposed to working to improve habitat to benefit all wildlife.

Some outdoorsmen have pushed for changes on the commission, arguing the state's priorities have been misdirected and should place more focus on maintaining big game herds to be hunted.

Backers of Robb and Jeffress believe the commission should continue to take a wider view and preserve habitat that benefits all species, from mule deer to sage grouse.

"Everybody wants to see more deer herds, but we want to use science," Wellington said.

"I'm just disgusted with this governor," he said. "I can't believe what he's done to the sportsmen's group in Nevada."

Charlie Myers, an Elko County commissioner and wildlife advisory panel member, agreed.

"We're kind of dumbfounded at this point," he said.

Robb is a former board member of the conservation group Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, which over the years has donated tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours on wildlife habitat projects.

Jeffress was a biologist with the Wildlife Department for 31 years before he retired.

Robb and Jeffress, who were first selected by former Gov. Kenny Guinn, said they weren't contacted by Gibbons to discuss reappointment.

"We initiated multiple contacts with the governor's office," Robb said. "We never had any conversations with the governor."

Gibbons, a first-term Republican, named Gerald Lent of Reno, Thomas Cavin of Carson City, and Michael McBeath of Las Vegas as the new sportsmen representatives.

Grant Preston Wallace, an alfalfa farmer in Dyer, was appointed to replace Bevan Lister of Pioche as the lone farm representative, Ben Kieckhefer, the governor's communication director, said when asked. The office did not announce the appointments.

None of the new appointees could be reached for immediate comment.

Doug Busselman, executive vice president of the Nevada Farm Bureau, said he was surprised by Lister's ouster. The Farm Bureau, with more than 1,300 members statewide, sent letters recommending Lister be retained.

"I understand the governor can appoint whoever he wants to appoint to the commission," Busselman said. "I respect that."

Busselman said his group does not know of Wallace and would have liked more communication with the administration, "or at least have a conversation on why what we were recommending wasn't the approach to take."

In another Gibbons' appointment, an appointee to the Pahrump Town Board surprised the four other members who learned of the move on the same day the new member showed up and introduced himself at a recent meeting, a Nye county official said Monday.

The governor's office notified the county July 18 that Bill Dolan had been named to a vacancy on the Pahrump Town Board, and that Glenn Hatch had been named to a vacancy on the Tonopah Town Board, Nye County Commission clerk Becky Ballard said.

The appointment of Hatch was not a surprise, the clerk said.

Kieckhefer said Dolan was named to replace John McDonald, who had sent a July 1 resignation letter to the Nye County clerk. The appointment was made after the governor got a certificate of a vacancy on the board from the secretary of state's office.

"Nowhere in that three-week stretch of time after he resigned did we receive any contact from anyone in Pahrump government that they wanted to be involved in the selection process," said Kieckhefer. "So when the certificate came in, we had a candidate who had been recommended to us and we appointed him."

"We still believe he's going to be an excellent member of the town board. Let's give the guy a shot and see how he does."

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On the Net:

Nevada Department of Wildlife: www.ndow.org

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