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Legislation introduced to expand Mississippi wildlife commission

Photo courtesy of MDWFP

Legislation has been introduced to expand Mississippi’s Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks to add more education and experience to the group of decision-makers tasked with protecting the state’s natural resources.

Currently, the commission has five members who are appointed by the governor. The group is given the power to dictate public policy for the conservation and preservation of wildlife in Mississippi with a majority vote of three. With that number in mind, Republican Rep. Timmy Ladner authored a bill that would increase the commission’s membership to nine.

House Bill 188 would also ensure that at least four members of an expanded commission would be required to have relative education or experience to the commission’s mission and goals – something that has been widely criticized as not all the current members have or had wildlife management or scientific backgrounds before their appointments.

“I think that education or experience in their background will help the commission make better decisions on how to handle our deer herd and all other hunting activities as far as that’s concerned,” Ladner said during an appearance on SuperTalk Outdoors with Ricky Mathews.

With the way the legislation is written, four members of the nine-person commission will be required to hold a bachelor’s degree in a field related to wildlife biology. Those without a degree in higher education could still be considered with 10 years of experience working in wildlife management or any other position specializing in biology or conservation.

Stipulations that are already in place and will be maintained for new members, if the bill passes and is signed into law, include being an active outdoorsman or woman, which means holding a hunting or fishing license for at least 10 years prior to an appointment.

Ladner added that the additional members would provide more parity to a commission that has been critiqued over controversial ideas floated around such as legalizing the sale of white-tailed deer. With high-fence enclosures already legal in Mississippi, the sale of deer has brought on concerns of an already-bad chronic wasting disease problem worsening.

“That will move the number to five to get things passed and I believe that helps things immensely because I just don’t know that the five-man commission is in our best interest,” Ladner said.

Where the educational factor comes in, according to Mathews, is the commission has also been accused of making decisions without the input of not only biologists but the public. One example included relaxing CWD zones at the behest of studies and recommendations from experts urging otherwise.

HB 188 is currently being considered by the House Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Committee and the House Accountability, Efficiency, and Transparency Committee. If it makes it through both, it will go to the floor for a vote.

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