Three out of five Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioners at next month’s meeting will be new appointees.
Gov. Steve Bullock announced Tuesday that he was reappointing Bob Ream, of Helena, to the commission, and naming Commissioner Dan Vermillion, of Livingston, as chair. New to the commission is Matthew Tourtlotte, of Billings, an attorney who will replace Shane Colton, whose term was up; Lawrence Wetsit, of Wolf Point, the vice president of Community Services at Fort Peck Community College and a former Fort Pecks Tribes chairman, who replaces A.T. Stafne, who resigned; and Chinook rancher Richard Stuker, who replaces Ron Moody, who term also was up.
“Serving on this commission is demanding and its members have to deal with complex and, at times, very contentious issues,” Bullock said. “The nominees are exceptional and demonstrate the high value Montanans place on preserving access to our public lands, streams and wildlife, and the opportunities they afford to all of us.”
The appointments take affect March 15. The new commission’s first meeting will be on April 11 in Helena.
In recent years, the FWP Commission has made decisions on numerous controversial issues. Those include taking over management of gray wolves from the federal government and setting hunting and trapping season; exploring how to handle brucellosis in elk, as well as their population drop in some areas; and controversial land purchases including the Spotted Dog and Milk River Ranch parcels.
Some of those decisions rankled not just landowners and sportsmen and women, but also legislators who have turned their frustration with FWP and the commission into dozens of bills this session trying to curtail their authority and possibly reverse some decisions.
While both Stafne and Colton willingly stepped aside, Moody had re-applied to the commission. However, Tuesday he said he was pleased with Bullock’s decision to appoint Stuker.
“I’m not disappointed. It sets me free to go back and help hold up and strengthen the Montana Wildlife Federation,” Moody said, adding that he’s not seeking an office or board position, but will be active in the organization he’s been a member of for 20 years. “I’m not going anywhere. This is just a change of positions from one foxhole to another.”
Bullock said he wants the commission to help the FWP department by initiating a public process to develop the 2015 FWP budget and conduct a comprehensive review of property FWP holds and its acquisition policies. The comprehensive review should consider good neighbor policies, operation and maintenance, and management priorities.
In the letter to the commission, Bullock said he also plans to revitalize the Private Lands, Public Wildlife Council.
“It’s time we conducted a comprehensive, bottom-up review of hunter access programs, including block management,” Bullock said. “I want this group to reassess everything from the program’s funding and effectiveness, to landowner incentives and how it can be more responsive to hunters’ needs.”
The current commission’s final meeting is a conference call on Thursday, with a limited agenda including commercial carp seining on Canyon Ferry Reservoir and Lake Helena; and possibly funding 15 Future Fisheries Program proposals for $585,490.
The conference calls is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., and will be video streamed live at FWP Headquarters in Helena, 1420 E. Sixth Ave. and at each FWP regional office. The public will have a chance to offer comments at each location.