Wildlife Commission Out of Touch with The Public

Wildlife Commission Out of Touch with The Public


There is an over-representation of hunter/trapper/ agriculture on the NBWC and an under-representation of the general population/conservation/ scientific (without hunting licenses). The goal should be to shift from operating under a framework focused only on a narrow set of wildlife interests (hunters) to a social-ecological approach that embraces the interests and participation of a broader public, a true democratization of the NBWC.


Nevada’s population has changed; now there are fewer consumptive users (hunting/trapping) and more non-consumptive and wildlife watchers.

Licensed hunters, trappers and anglers comprise less than 5% of the state’s population, yet constitute more than half of the NBWC. Five members must have purchased wildlife-killing licenses in 3 of the 4 preceding years.

While one farmer and one rancher are required to be on the board, they presently encompass less than 1% of the state’s population and are often also hunters/trappers, bringing that demographic representation on the NBWC to 77%.

There is only one member who represents the general public, despite the fact that 95% of the state’s residents are non-consumptive users and wildlife watchers; also, one member representing conservation interests.  See NRS 501.171 below.


With the state population at approximately 3 million, fully 2/3 of that population resides in Clark County; NRS limits commissioners from counties with populations over 700,000 to 3 members. Only 3 out of 9 members from Clark County?

HISTORY: When the original commissions were created for their states, they were primarily made up of game wardens (See “The Hiring, Firing, and Distribution of Western State Game & Fish Commission Members” August 2019, Mountain Pursuit); now commissions must tackle many other issues besides hunting.


There are presently only 2 women on the NBWC. There are no African-American, Latino, Asian-American or Native-American members.


  1.  TRADITIONALISTS (those who believe wildlife should be used and managed for the benefit of the people): their number has declined over the years to 28% of the U.S. population.  MUTUALISTS (those who see wildlife as part of their extended social network with rights equal to humans) have increased to 35% of the U.S. population. See The America’s Wildlife Values Project: https://sites.warnercnr.colostate.edu/wildlifevalues/.
  2. In Nevada those numbers are even more pronounced:  Traditionalists count only 22% and Mutualists are now up to 44% of the population. 
  3. In Nevada, wildlife belongs to all Nevadans; public lands belong to all Nevadans, not just the hunters and trappers.  See below: NRS 501.100.
  4. NBWC MISSION STATEMENT:  “To protect, conserve, manage and restore wildlife and its habitat for the aesthetic, scientific, educational, recreational and economic benefit to citizens of Nevada and the U.S…”  See http://www.ndow.org/Our_Agency/. However, NBWC rarely helps genuine conservation and protection of wildlife.  Instead it is used to ensure a steady supply of animals for hunters and trappers to kill.  Hunter/trapper convenience, opportunity and success are the overarching refrains from the commission.


Wildlife watchers now outspend hunters by almost 3 to 1 in the U.S. (See the USFWS 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation: https://www.fws.gov/wsfrprograms/subpages/nationalsurvey/nat_survey2016.pdf).  Hunters account for $26.2 billion nationwide, wildlife viewers for $75.9 billion.

While many believe that hunters/trappers/anglers fund the entire Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) budget through license fees and public taxes (Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 and Dingel-Johnson Act of 1950);  Pittman-Robertson funds derive from 11% excise tax on arms and ammunition and Dingel-Johnson funds come from 10% excise tax on fishing and boating equipment.  Hunting groups claim that because they say they spend more than non-consumptive users, only they should have a say in wildlife management decisions.  According to USFWS survey numbers, this claim is simply not true with wildlife watchers outspending hunters 3 to 1.  Also, with approximately 100 million gun owners in the U.S. and only approximately 11 million hunters, it is clear that it is the public who funds NDOW through Pittman-Robertson public taxes by purchasing guns and ammunition.


NRS 501.167  Creation; number and appointment of members.  The Board of Wildlife Commissioners, consisting of nine members appointed by the Governor, is hereby created.  (Added to NRS by 1969, 1557; A 1977, 12291979, 8911989, 2191)

NRS 501.171  Appointment and qualifications of members; officers.

1.  A county advisory board to manage wildlife shall submit written nominations for appointments to the Commission upon the request of the Governor and may submit nominations at any other time.

2.  After consideration of the written nominations submitted by a county advisory board to manage wildlife and any additional candidates for appointment to the Commission, the Governor shall appoint to the Commission:

(a) One member who is actively engaged in and possesses experience and expertise in advocating issues relating to conservation;

(b) One member who is actively engaged in farming;

(c) One member who is actively engaged in ranching;

(d) One member who represents the interests of the general public; and

(e) Five members who during at least 3 of the 4 years immediately preceding their appointment held a resident license to fish or hunt, or both, in Nevada.

3.  The Governor shall not appoint to the Commission any person who has been convicted of:

(a) A felony or gross misdemeanor for a violation of NRS 501.376;

(b) A gross misdemeanor for a violation of NRS 502.060;

(c) A felony or gross misdemeanor for a violation of NRS 504.395; or

(d) Two or more violations of the provisions of chapters 501 to 504, inclusive, of NRS,

Ê during the previous 10 years.

4.  Not more than three members may be from the same county whose population is 700,000 or more, not more than two members may be from the same county whose population is 100,000 or more but less than 700,000, and not more than one member may be from the same county whose population is less than 100,000.

5.  The Commission shall annually select a Chair and a Vice Chair from among its members. A person shall not serve more than two consecutive terms as Chair.

[Part 9:101:1947; A 1949, 292; 1943 NCL § 3035.09] — (NRS A 1969, 34115461977, 12291979, 8911989, 21911995, 89725842003, 25352009, 4442011, 12931639)

NRS 501.100  Legislative declaration regarding wildlife.

1.  Wildlife in this State not domesticated and in its natural habitat is part of the natural resources belonging to the people of the State of Nevada.

2.  The preservation, protection, management and restoration of wildlife within the State contribute immeasurably to the aesthetic, recreational and economic aspects of these natural resources.

[Part 8:101:1947; A 1949, 292; 1943 NCL § 3035.08] — (NRS A 1969, 1347)


Nevada has the opportunity to create a more diverse NBWC, reflecting the population and concerns of ALL Nevadans, encompassing participatory, transparent, and democratic administration, incorporating diverse perspectives, adapting to environmental and social change.


Increase the number of members from the non-consumptive public (those who do not hold hunting licenses).

Increase diversity of members from gender and racial/ethnic groups.

Decrease the number of hunters/trappers on the NBWC.  Holding a hunter/trapper/ angler license for 3 of the 4 previous years should not be prescriptive, no pay to play.

Decrease the number from agriculture backgrounds.  Nevada is no longer rural-centric.


Increase the number of “mutualists” and decrease the number of “traditionalists.”

In recognition of global warming, loss of habitat and declines in biodiversity, increase the number of members with conservation/scientific expertise.

Acknowledge that Nevada’s public lands belong to the public; Nevada’s wildlife belongs to the public.  Public trust principles must apply to Commissioners.  Attending only to the interests of narrowly-focused stakeholders (hunters/trappers) is not consistent with public trust principles or good governance and will face decreasing public support.


In recognition of the higher revenue brought into the state by wildlife watchers, a seat should be given to a non-profit organization representing this demographic.

Because the general public far outspends hunter/trapper/anglers for the NDOW budget, more seats should be assigned to them on the NBWC.

Now that Nevada has an Office of Ecotourism, include a member from that office.

Fish and game agencies cannot survive on current funding (user fees) and will need to look more broadly for support: https://www.fishwildlife.org/application/files/2515/7547/9977/Fish_Wildlife_Relevancy_Roadmap__Final_12-04-19-lowres.pdf


Members to represent:

— Office of Ecotourism (1)

— Indian tribal member (1)

— Farmer/rancher (1)

–Animal Advocacy (1)

— General public (5) (at least one with conservation background, one with scientific  background, all with enthusiasm for wildlife’s best interests)

Based Upon:

Governance Principles for Wildlife Conservation in the 21st Century
Daniel Decker, Christian Smith, Ann Forstchen, Darragh Hare, Emily Pomeranz, Catherine Doyle-Capitman, Krysten Schuler, & John Organ

Published in Conservation Letters: A Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology

Phantasmagoria 4/7/2014

Phantasmagoria 4/7/2014

The photo shows rural citizens – mostly trappers – on video conference with Legislature.

Trapper arguments against shorter trap visitation times:

A trapline
  • Some of them have long trap lines with as many as 100 traps on a line. This takes a long time to visit.
  • The traps are set in remote, rugged, hard-to-reach country.
  • Most trappers have to work (despite the claim by some that trapping is their entire income) and so have only weekends to visit traps.
  • They want no restrictions. Period.

We flew to Las Vegas on our own dimes.

Yesterday in Las Vegas was like a bad acid trip. Don’t ask me how I know. I wish what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas, but it’s right here to haunt me today.

First off, a girl in a flowered dress tells us she just started trapping and she finds it “empowering”.

Then a guy in an American flag T-shirt lifts each of his pre-school little girls up to the microphone so they can pipe: “I like hunting and trapping.” A colleague behind me gasps: “Child abuse!”

Then the Committee sets upon Dr. Molde’s data – painstakingly collected utilizing much of Nevada Department of Wildlife’s (NDOW’s) own data – like a pack of wolves. (Dr. Don Molde is a retired physician who has been an ardent animal advocate for over 40 years.) Sullivan – trapper representative on the committee – is alpha predator calling the data: “amateur science” and “nonsense” and “deception”. Russell Woolstenhulme – NDOW data guy – explains away years of disregarding nontarget kills and citizen complaints, years of partial response from trappers – who are supposed to fill out an annual report, but in fact few do so – leaving us to question where the truth lies in this debate.

Sullivan tries to get Russell to issue a scientific “opinion”, but this does not happen. Dr. Molde is not there to defend his research.

Responding to trapper bemusement about why all this is happening, Committee Chair Commissioner Dave McNinch makes one of the few humane or even sensible remarks, explaining that “it comes down to values” and that there is such a thing as humane issues. He adds trapping is  PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT. He should be congratulated.

In a breathtaking turn-around, Commissioner Jack Robb – who is also NDOW Deputy Director – distances himself from his vote a few weeks ago to recommend one-day visitation for skimpy areas in the Sierra Front. Now he’s making trapper education a bargaining chip. He’s denying that’s what he’s doing, but that’s what he’s doing. The trappers want the education “in lieu of” shorter visitation. Jack would love to give them that but he makes references to the Legislature and their expectations, so you can see he thinks his hands are tied even though the Legislature gave him carte blanche to set this policy.

Robb indicates he’ll  now support 2-calendar day visitation. “Shorter trap check might not be as effective as trapper education”. This entirely misses the point about animal suffering.

Of course the Nevada Trappers Association (NTA) boys want to run the education program. Robb suggests  NDOW should run it.

Sullivan enlightens us. He has “objective” literature on trapping he will post to the NDOW website.  Question: when do WE get to post anything on their website?

So now shorter visitation is a bargaining chip as is trapper education.

NTA President Joel Blakeslee mistakes a room full of glaring trappers and horrified animal advocates for a therapy group. He bares his soul to us regarding his unfair and unjustified citation for failure to visit his traps (for somewhat around 10 days). He had pneumonia. He tells us what he’s coughing up. He’s almost dying although miraculously well enough to stumble out of his death bed and fly to Las Vegas. He didn’t get his meds. He and Larry Johnson rumbling around the outback had a flat tire and who knows what else befell them. So the state shouldn’t even consider higher demerits for failure to visit trap (which, to my surprise, they are doing) Rising to flights of pneumonia-induced eloquence, he tells us there’s a bill already drafted to “shut down Mt. Charleston”. He accuses his opposition (us) of “cultural genocide”. He is “falling on his sword” being destroyed “inch by inch” by “Pol Pot, Germany”. His trap-baiting, animal strangling culture is being decimated “a pound of flesh at a time. Keep your dignity. At least you fought for it.”

Jack Robb tries to sound equitable – claims the Trapping Regulation Committee represents “all citizens” “We are the social arm of NDOW” Joel: “it’s the wrong thing. It’s not telling the truth”. “it’s all about us losing. It’s also about human fairness”.

Hard to tell if the focus of his grief was the threat from NDOW to shorten visitation times, or the modest suggestion from the Committee to increase demerits for violations Jack Robb deems “willfully malicious”.

At the end, I am not clear what  will happen with the hunt units around Las Vegas. Sullivan wanted Commissioner Dr. Karen Layne’s ( she is the sole animal advocate on the Commission) map to shrink to ¼ of its current size and argued with every word she said.

We were mocked in absentia for leaving at 8PM to catch our flight back to Reno. We missed four more hours of this which, we heard later, went on until midnight.

TrailSafe Nevada Legislative Success

Trapping animals with devices such as the leghold trap, the snare, the Conibeartm type body gripping trap is cruel, indiscriminate, antiquated and opposed by all major animal advocacy groups. TrailSafe Nevada was a coalition of concerned citizens who introduced successful legislation to at least somewhat regulate use of the devices. This work has begun and we have every hope and confidence that it will continue.

Everlasting gratitude to these compassionate, fearless leaders and everybody else who helped along the way.

Northern Nevada Activist Caron Tayloe

Between 2010 and 2017, TrailSafe prevailed with the Nevada Legislature and three of our trap regulation laws were passed in three different Legislative sessions. These were SB 226, 213 and 364. Each will be described below. Contact info@trailsafe.org for more detail.

We approached the trapping issue incrementally; trapping is so politically entrenched in our state that we could not hope for an immediate ban to all commercial trapping on public lands – which is our ultimate goal. So we went for common sense regulations such as:

  • Limiting the areas where trapping is allowed. To start with, it is obvious that trapping should not be permitted in residential neighborhoods or public recreation sites. We got a few miniscule areas grudgingly protected.
  • Shockingly, Nevada did not require registration or ID on traps. How can law enforcement function with no way to identify offenders? We did succeed getting this measure passed so now every trap set on public land must have either personal ID or NDOW registration number.
  • Requiring more frequent trap visitation. Nevada law requires trappers to visit their traps only every 96 hours. This is four days for a trapped living being to suffer horrific torture. If trapping must continue, at the very least we can hope for the trapper to visit traps daily, and put suffering animals out of their misery. Vague language in the final version of the bill led to a year of wrangling with the Wildlife Commission for very disappointing, grudging results . This measure must be vigorously pursued in future.
  • Nevada law set penalties for tampering with a legally set trap. This had to be amended to allow for common sense: allowing persons to free their pets or other domestic animals; allowing persons to move or disable a trap that poses a risk to animals or persons. We did ultimately get this passed.
  • Warning Signs at trailheads. The public overwhelmingly request this common sense regulation. Traps are camouflaged and hidden. The public deserves warning at trailheads, kiosks and visitor centers. We did prevail with this measure. But much of Nevada is Federal land which is not subject to state law. US Forest Service says they will post signs, but COVID-19 has caused delays. We need to pursue this. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has so far not made a firm agreement. NDOW will post signs on their Wildlife Management Areas – again we need boots on the ground to follow up on this.
Nevada State Legislature

Senate Bill No. 226

On June 3, 2011 the Governor signed our bill, SB226, into law. Although it’s not everything we initially asked for, it is a positive development.

The Wildlife Commission is now required by law  to regulate traps in congested areas and to do so by Dec. 31, 2012. The Wildlife Commission whittled away the “congested areas” leaving only a few tiny dots on the map protected from traps. We learned anew the folly of any law that leaves definition up to the Wildlife Commission. “Adopt regulations governing the trapping of fur-bearing mammals in a residential area of a county whose population is 100,000 or more.” fell far short of our goal.

But it was a start and we went on to further legislative efforts.

Senate Bill No. 213

Commissioner Karen Layne

Our second bill became effective July 31, 2013.

Due to this bill, once again Nevada trap registration is mandated. It would seem obvious there cannot be trapping regulation if law enforcement cannot identify the offender. Trappers prevailed in 2015 to have this reversed, but we prevailed once again in 2017 and as of this writing (2021) the law still mandates personal ID or Department of Wildlife (NDOW) registration number upon every trap set on public lands. This was the most successful section of our bill.

But, the final language about frequency of trap visitation reflects the unjustified faith our lawmakers have in the Wildlife Commission. It also reflects insensitivity to wildlife, animals, compassion, suffering. Ultimately we were stuck with vague language granting them almost unlimited leeway to water down our intent. Phrases below in bold proved nearly impossible to define, and what followed was a year of wrangling with the Commission.

“The Commission shall adopt regulations setting forth the frequency at which a person who takes or causes to be taken wild mammals by means of traps, snares or similar devices . . . must visit a trap, snare or similar device. In adopting the regulations, the Commission shall consider requiring a trap, snare or similar device placed in close proximity to a populated or heavily used area by persons to be visited more frequently than a trap, snare or similar device which is not placed in close proximity to such an area.”


The history of this year of wrangling meant we had to attend meetings almost every month in different parts of the state – which meant uncompensated time and expense for us. This episode is a vivid illustration of government obstruction, obfuscation and machination. All we got were a few dots on the map designated for shorter visitation, and the rest of this vast state remains at the punishing 96 hour trap visitation law.

Senate Bill No. 364

Our third bill became effective July 1, 2017.

Strategist Lesley Pittman

With the guidance of a seasoned strategist, and the assistance of the Center for Biological Diversity, and the resources of our newly formed Nevada Wildlife Alliance, we pursued four goals. Three were successful, whereas we were again unable to get shorter trap visitation times.

  • This bill gives trappers the option of obtaining a trap registration number from Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW.) Or they can attach their own ID (Name and address) to their traps. Every trap, snare or similar device used in commercial and/or recreational trapping on public land has to have one of these means of identification.
  • Animals still suffer under the 96-hour statute all over the state excepting the few small areas “protected” under SB213.  We still need a 24-hour visitation law. This was our only unsuccessful measure. Thirty three states mandate 24 hours. No trapping whatsoever would be best, but 24 hours would be more acceptable.
  • The public now has the right to move or disable a trap that poses risk. Trappers claim this will encourage vandalism on all their traps. Hikers need to know they won’t face a penalty for protecting themselves or companion animals.
  • The public deserves and has long demanded warning signs. Federal and state land management agencies in cooperation with NDOW will develop standardized signs to be posted at outdoor recreation sites warning that trapping may occur in that area. Trappers are not required to post these warnings themselves. It would be ideal if they had that much concern for the public, but experience tells us they do not and will not post signs themselves. We need to follow up and see if this is enforced. The US Forest Service agrees to post signs. The Bureau of Land Management has yet to confirm their cooperation.