West Virginia wildlife and law enforcement officials expect to get an earful from sportsmen this week.
That’s when the Division of Natural Resources will conduct 12 meetings at locations scattered throughout the Mountain State. The meetings are designed for hunters, anglers and landowners to offer their two cents’ worth on the agency’s policies. Paul Johansen, the DNR’s wildlife chief, expects deer and bear regulations to be first and foremost on attendees’ minds.
“I expect we’ll hear a lot about buck bag limits, both from people interested in maintaining current limits and from people who interested in reducing them,” Johansen added. “I think we’ll also hear a lot of spillover from the guided-bear-hunt bill the Legislature considered for a while.”
Johansen said the hottest topics “will vary a bit from region to region,” but in general he expects deer and bear regulations to generate the most discussion.
At a recent meeting of the state Natural Resources Commission, DNR biologists outlined a series of regulations aimed at protecting the endangered candy darter, a small fish that inhabits some of the state’s most popular trout streams.
The DNR proposed regulations to restrict the use of fish for bait on those streams, and announced plans to stop stocking darter-eating brown trout in those waters.
“Those regulations will definitely be of interest to trout anglers,” Johansen said. “The regulations we drafted to conserve the candy darter were designed to have as little impact on anglers as possible, but I still expect us to get a lot of questions about them.”
The meetings, as usual, will follow an open-house format. Attendees will be able to come and go as they please, and to talk to DNR wildlife and law enforcement personnel about anything they wish.
Each attendee will be given the opportunity to officially weigh in on proposed regulation changes by filling out a questionnaire. Johansen said the results of the questionnaires would be compiled and passed along to members of the commission before their next meeting.
“If someone isn’t able to make it to the meetings, he or she can download the questionnaire from the DNR’s website, www.wvdnr.gov,” he added.
“The questionnaires allow us to gauge people’s support for, or opposition to, the regulation changes we proposed. We also try to document the input we gather verbally at the meetings, and we pass that along to the commissioners as well. Our commissioners want to make informed decisions about regulation changes, and they take public input into account as part of their decision-making process.”
Two meetings will be held in each of the DNR’s six game-management districts. All of the meetings will begin at 6 p.m. and end at 8 p.m.
Meetings scheduled for March 11 will be held at the following venues:
Beckley, at the Beckley/Raleigh County Convention Center; Fairmont, in the Fairmont East High School commons area; Harrisville, at North Bend State Park; Martinsburg, at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn; Milton, at the West Virginia Pumpkin Park office building; and Summersville, at Nicholas County High School.
Meetings scheduled for March 12 will be held at:
Buckhannon, at Buckhannon-Upshur High School; Glen Dale, in the commons area at John Marshall High School; Logan, at the Chief Logan State Park Conference Center; Moorefield, at the South Branch Inn; Parkersburg, at the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department; and Princeton, in the Stafford Commons at the Chuck Methena Center.