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Wildlife Commission vice chair defends board’s 8-0 decision

Matthew Renda
Nevada Appeal News Service
Nevada Appeal News Service file photo
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Regional wildlife advocates and residents are taking their case to the state Capitol after the Nevada Wildlife Commission’s vote to allow bear hunting in Nevada.

Since the Dec. 3-4 hearing in Reno, residents have launched a letter-writing campaign to local newspapers, Gov. Jim Gibbons and Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval, asking for the commission’s 8-0 vote to be reconsidered.

“It is with great heaviness in my heart that I write to you with the urgent request that you reconsider your Nevada Wildlife Commission ruling to establish Nevada’s first black bear hunt,” wrote Incline Village resident Jennifer Hillman in a letter this week to Sandoval. “This ruling was voted and approved into action by eight NWC Board members and is not the will of the people, the majority of us who call Nevada home.”

The nine-member, governor-appointed wildlife commission – which governs the Nevada Department of Wildlife – plans to approve the particulars of the hunt, including a tag quota and length of season, by the spring of 2011.

NDOW spokesman Chris Healy said 42 people spoke out against the hunt and 20 voiced support for it during the hearing.

Madonna Dunbar, a regional wildlife advocate who attended the hearing, said Commission chairperson Scott Raine mentioned during the meeting that NDOW received more than 2,000 e-mails regarding the hunt. He referred to the messages as “spam,” dismissing the input, she said.

Raine did not publicly reveal how many of the e-mails were for or against the proposed hunt during the hearing, she said.

“It would have been nice to have the numbers, because if it was close to 50/50, I could understand why the panel voted the way they did,” she said.

Raine is out of the country on vacation and could not return phone calls seeking comment.

“The whole attitude of the panel members indicated they had already made up their minds and they were just enduring the public comment sessions before they could get to the vote,” Dunbar said. “You could tell by the body language – there was a lot of eye rolling and heavy sighs.”

In a phone interview this week, Gerald Lent, vice chairman of the Nevada Wildlife Commission, took exception to mounting criticism.

“I listened to their concepts,” Lent said. “As a matter of fact, someone brought up that bears should not be hunted during the spring when there is a chance of killing the mother of cubs. For this reason, I will not support a year-round hunt or any hunting during the spring.”

Kathryn Bricker, a resident of Zephyr Cove, said the composition of the commission is skewed to favor hunters and does not take wildlife advocates into account.

“The nine-member wildlife commission is (composed) of five sportsmen, two rancher/farmers, one citizen at large and one conservationist,” she said in a November interview. “It is no wonder the commission demonstrates such a narrow (viewpoint).”

Dunbar agreed.

“Because the viewpoints of wildlife management needs to be considered from both a hunting and non-hunting perspective, the wildlife commission needs to be revamped,” she said.

Gibbons spokesman Daniel Burns said those opposed to the vote or the commission’s makeup should speak with state legislators.

“The state statutes describe the selection process and spells out the type of people that are considered for the panel,” Burns said.

State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, who represents District 4, said if residents have a problem with the makeup of the commission, that must be addressed at the policy level.

“I encourage residents interested in changing how the commission is formed to assemble their arguments and attend the legislature,” he said.

Nevada is home to an estimated 200 to 300 bears along the eastern Sierra, according to Nevada Department of Wildlife, with most in the Carson Range on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore. There also are an unknown number of bears in the Wassuk and Sweetwater ranges to the south.

Carl Lackey, a biologist with NDOW who has worked for years with the state’s black bear population, pointed out, however, that bears do not recognize borders, and overall, the Sierra Nevada supports a population of 10,000-15,000 bears.

“The bear population in Nevada could easily withstand a limited hunt,” he said.