THE PROBLEM: LACK OF DIVERSITY ON 9-MEMBER, GOVERNOR-APPOINTED NEVADA BOARD OF WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS (NBWC): 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. Source: “Wildlife Governance Principles in the 21st Century,” 2015, Decker.
Analysis of the problem: Source: Informal collaboration of local wildlife advocates:
- 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.
- GEOGRAPHY: 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.
- GENDER: there are presently only 2 women on the NBWC.
- RACE: there are no African-American, Latino, Asian-American or Native-American members.
B. VALUES & MISSION
- 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/.
- In Nevada those numbers are even more pronounced: Traditionalists count only 22% and Mutualists are now up to 44% of the population.
- In Nevada, wildlife belongs to all Nevadans; public lands belong to all Nevadans, not just the hunters and trappers. See below: NRS 501.100.
- 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.
- REVENUE COMING INTO THE STATE
- 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.
NEVADA REVISED STATUTES: BOARD OF WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS
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, 1229; 1979, 891; 1989, 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
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.
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.
THE SOLUTION: While most states continue with hunter-centric Wildlife Commissions, 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 the number of members from Clark County. Geographic limitations in the current NRS are archaic. Only 3 out of 9 members from Clark County?
- 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.
- VALUES AND MISSION
- 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.
- Even Tony Wasley, Director of NDOW, admits that 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
- One possible STRUCTURE for NBWC seats (present Commissioners serve out terms):
— Hunter, trapper, angler (1)
— Office of Ecotourism (1)
— Indian tribal member (1)
— Farmer/rancher (1)
— General public (5) (at least one with conservation background, one with scientific
background, all with enthusiasm for wildlife’s best interests)