FWP Wildlife Chief Reassigned

On Wednesday, sources inside Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks revealed that Wildlife Supervisor Ken McDonald has been assigned totally different tasks.

McDonald will now reportedly spearhead a “habitat leasing program.” sureThe sources have been granted anonymity as a result of they risked dropping their jobs.

On Thursday, FWP spokesman Greg Lemon stated McDonald would proceed to function chief wildlife officer, nevertheless, “the habitat lease program is his high precedence.”

β€œTypically that may imply you must usher in different leaders inside the wildlife division to assist with different administrative-type duties. Nonetheless, he stays the supervisor of the wildlife division and can be chargeable for figuring out how greatest to handle the division’s work and workers,” Lemon stated in an e mail.

McDonald has been the wildlife division chief, or administrator, for at the least a dozen years. Many have turn out to be accustomed to him from his many appearances earlier than legislative committees, talking for or in opposition to varied payments or just offering info on laws that might have an effect on Montana’s wildlife.

The 2021 Legislature was the primary session during which Director Hank Worsech banned workers from testifying on payments to make McDonald’s much less seen.

Nonetheless, others know him from numerous conferences associated to particular species, such because the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee or the Interagency Bison Administration Plan conferences, the place he represented FWP.

McDonald’s longevity as workplace supervisor has many questioning what prompted the sudden reassignment. Oftentimes, a reassignment signifies FWP management dissatisfaction with a specific worker. Since they can not hearth an worker with out trigger, they’re positioned in a decrease place.

For instance, in 2015, Arnie Dood It was eliminated from his place as coordinator of endangered and threatened species the place he had spent years making an attempt to ascertain a herd of untamed bison in Montana. This was earlier than the Montana tribes began having their very own herds, and the bison have been nonetheless confined to Yellowstone Nationwide Park and the Bison Nationwide Vary.

Dood frequently confronted stiff opposition from Montana ranchers, fearful that bison would switch brucellosis to their cattle, although elk are main illness vectors.

After Dood utilized to be the Area 3 supervisor in 2014 however did not get the job, FWP management relegated him to overseeing brucellosis administration in Paradise Valley. Since he had already labored 40 years at FWP, Dood resigned.

Most not too long ago, in December, former Area 2 Wildlife Supervisor Mike Thompson was abruptly relieved of his duties whereas making an attempt to rearrange the deer and elk searching seasons. With out warning, Worsech gave him a 20-day suspension.

β€œMy suspension cited ‘lack of ample supervision of my direct reviews’ and ‘chain of command violations.’ I did not know we have been at warfare. Individuals who know me would acknowledge, and have, that my misdeeds fall inside the norm of my 41 years of FWP service. I’m not troublesome to appropriate. A direct dialog would have sufficed,” Thompson wrote in a Jan. 12 assertion. misoulian letter.

With that, Thompson additionally resigned.

FWP is now struggling the lack of many skilled wildlife biologists and managers. Many have stop or moved in simply the previous 12 months, as Worsech has instituted insurance policies and applications which have little to do with science, making it troublesome for devoted biologists to do their jobs.

Now that the wildlife division has just one part-time chief, some fear that Worsech may make modifications to additional shrink the division. As a substitute of leaving wildlife as his personal division, Worsech is rumored to be contemplating shifting what stays of the Wildlife Division into the brand new Parks and Recreation division as a part of his reorganization of FWP. He has already moved fishing entry websites and wildlife administration areas beneath Parks and Recreation.

That would have detrimental results for a division that was as soon as a nationwide chief in wildlife administration. It may stifle home efforts to protect and defend species that aren’t as fashionable as huge sport, corresponding to grizzly bears, wolves and bison.

In the meantime, it stays unclear how a part-time chief can run a wildlife division that manages the widest vary of species within the decrease 48 states. To FWP biologists, it seems that McDonald is the second worker to lose a few of his management place. Equally, former Parks Chief Beth Shumate was demoted an assistant administrator when Worsech employed Hope Stockwell of the Montana Legislature to guide the Division of Parks and Recreation.

The reference to working a “habitat lease program” implies that McDonald will oversee Worsech’s modified model of the Habitat Montana program. The Habitat Montana program used to get a sure allotment of {dollars} from athletes (about $2 million a 12 months) to buy conservation easements or titles for wildlife habitat. Some legislators oppose FWP buying extra land, so some payments have briefly restricted Habitat Montana to buying solely conservation easements.

Now, nevertheless, Worsech is creating a brand new leasing program in order that Habitat Montana cash is spent on short-term habitat leases, a program that’s doubtlessly dearer and fewer sturdy than conservation easements. However it suits with Worsech’s coverage of prioritizing landowners over sportsmen.

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at lundquist@missoulacurrent.com

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