Nevada's Wildlife Commission will see some dramatic changes next week as legislation giving the governor more power over the department takes effect.
Gov. Jim Gibbons shifted the balance of power on the nine-member board to groups seen by wildlife advocates as much more radical and their management has embroiled the commission in controversy for several years. The most recent example is the commission decision to issue tags for a bear hunt in the Tahoe Basin despite recommendations to the contrary by Executive Director Ken Mayer and wildlife biologists. Opponents have sued to block the hunt.
That is just one of a number of issues where the department and commission have been at odds during the past four years including reductions in the number of deer tags for this year's hunt.
Assembly Bill 322 by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith and Assemblyman David Bobzien removes the requirement that the governor choose the wildlife director from nominations presented him by the commission. Effective July 1 the governor can pick his director.
When Gov. Brain Sandoval took office, he put Mayer in as interim director but couldn't make him permanent without commission approval - unlikely since it was the commission that convinced Gibbons to fire Mayer last year.
With the rules change, Sandoval is expected to make Mayer the permanent director July 1.
In addition, the three-year terms of four Gibbons appointees expire July 1 and AB322 ends the term of a fifth member, Daryl Capurro.
Sandoval is expected to replace three of the five - Capurro, who represents conservation, Vice Chairman Gerald Lent and member Tom Cavin who represent sportsmen.
County Advisory Boards have supported returning the other two - Michael McBeath who represents sportsmen and Grant Wallace who represents farming - to the commission. Those boards have not supported another term for Capurro, Lent or Cavin.
That still leaves several Gibbons appointees on the panel. Chairman Scott Raine has two years left in his appointment. Hal Shrum and Charles Howell have a year to go.
Finally, there is an additional member of the commission who may or may not remain there next year. Hank Vogler, who represents ranchers, sits on both the Wildlife and the state agriculture board. But under another piece of legislation passed by the 2011 Legislature, he can only keep one seat. He will have to choose by Dec. 31.