Fight for Good Management of Kentucky's Fish and Wildlife

Thank you, Sportsmen and Women of Kentucky! We had another big win this week when Representative Massey withdrew HB 395 as a show of good will in response to our efforts. Additionally, Senator Robin Webb amended her Senate Bill 217, the mirror to HB 605, following our meeting with her Friday 03/04/2022.  

Senator Webb has ensured procurements by Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) will be made subject to KRS 45A, the Kentucky Model Procurement Code, she has pulled the Commissioner and Commission under the Kentucky Ethics Commission per KRS 11A, and provide for an annual audit of procurements and associated procedures annually. Thank you, Senator Webb! 

While we want to celebrate these improvements, we cannot do so by ignoring the harmful provisions that remain. Unfortunately, these amendments do not fully address Kentucky sportsmen and women’s concerns with either SB217 or HB605, which continue to threaten conservation and Kentucky’s hunting, fishing, trapping, and public lands heritage. The FIGHT is not over.  

Kentucky BHA continues to remind our legislators in both chambers, that our “system was created by Kentucky Sportsmen [and women] to ensure that both managerial and financial control of the state’s wildlife resources stayed out of political control.” These bills, in their current form, can be weaponized to distract our Commission’s and Commissioners’ attention away from science-based, evidence proven, best practices for protecting Kentucky fish, wildlife and wild places. 

Remember, Kentucky sportsmen and women pay the bills, with over 90% of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resource’s annual budget coming directly or indirectly from the licenses we purchase. As such, sportsmen and women have been granted a say in the management of KDFWR through our volunteer Fish and Wildlife District Commissioners. These bills threaten our involvement in selecting Commission members as well as our ability to ensure efficient and ethical management of KDFWR.  

Our major concerns still exist in Senate Bill 217 and House Bill 605 and for these reasons, they must be defeated. 

  1. Restructuring of the Commission’s appointment process violates the Kentucky Constitution and denies Kentucky sportsmen and women representation on the Commission. These Bills would: 
  2. Qualify an appointee to the Commission who has held hunting and fishing license in any state for the previous 5 years. This would allow appointment of an individual who has not invested in KDFWR, has not been a resident of Kentucky for a substantial period, and is not familiar with conservation and wildlife in Kentucky. Candidates who have not invested in this system, nor have experience with Kentucky wildlife and conservation should not hold power within the Commission. 
  3. Qualify an appointee to the Commission who has hunted and fished in Kentucky but is otherwise license exempt. This would allow appointment of an individual who has and is not purchasing licenses and thus not contributed to funding KDFWR. The primary supporting reason sportsmen and women nominate commission members is because our license purchases fund the department. Candidates who have not invested in this system should not hold power within the Commission. 
  4. Allow a Commission member to serve 1 year after the end of their term. This provision violates Sections 28 (separation of powers), 76 (executive appointment power) and 93 (inferior officers of commissions) of the Kentucky Constitution. One branch of government cannot exercise the power of another. The executive branch holds sole appointment authority of commissions. Commission terms are limited to 4 years, ending when their successor has been appointed. Kentucky sportsmen and women’s right to have candidates chosen through a valid nomination process should not be impeded. 
  5. Requires Commission seats to be vacated 1 year after end of term if a successor has not been confirmed and remain vacant until confirmation. This provision also violates Section 28, 76 and 93 of the Kentucky Constitution for the same reasons as above. Kentucky sportsmen and women’s right to have candidates chosen through a valid nomination process should not be impeded.  
  6. Concern exists and explanations are absent for why these Bills propose to create a department exempt from otherwise universal provisions of government oversight. These Bills would: 
  7. Make the KDFWR Commissioner the chief purchasing officer instead of the Secretary of Finance and Administration Cabinet, as is the case for all other cabinets and departments. This would create less oversight for a department with a terrible historical record managing the public’s money. 
  8. Removes language subjecting KDFWR from universal provisions of government oversight established as primary prevention to avoid malfeasance and mismanagement. The sponsors of these bills tell us the same oversight remains after removing this language, which begs the question, why remove it then? 
  9. Exempt KDFWR from reorganization under KRS12. KRS 12 was enacted to improve the efficiency of government and provide an avenue to correct problems within departments. Removing this provision serves no purpose. 
  10. Provide Commission Members be afforded an administrative hearing under KRS 13B prior to removal. Appointment to the Commission is not a right held by the appointee and thus should not be subject to semi-judicial hearing process. 
  11. Provide the Commissioner of the KDFWR sole appointing authority for the department under KRS 18A. The Commissioner already holds appointment authority under KRS 150.061(4). As such, there exists no rational bases for this inclusion, other than potentially exempting KDFWR from the merit and fitness based competitive employment system.  
  12. Ordering the Finance and Administrative Cabinet to acquire perpetual conservation easements on property in Knox, Bell and Leslie Counties violates the separation of powers clause contained in Section 28 of the Kentucky Constitution. BHA is extremely supportive of such an acquisition to be maintained for future generations of Kentucky sportsmen and women. However, BHA cannot support the inconsistent standards for this acquisition without proper oversight and management throughout the rest of these Bills.   

If you wish to review the bills in the official forms please follow these links: Senate Bill 217 and House Bill 605. 

Please join Kentucky BHA in urging your members of the Kentucky House of Representatives to vote “NO” Senate Bill 217 and House Bills 605. 

About Kentucky BHA

Our chapter is dedicated to serving the interests of conservation and access to clean public lands and waters. Through planning, collaboration, and dedication, we will make a difference.

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