Why Makeup of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Matters

The makeup of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been in the news lately.

The Tampa Bay Times reported this week that Gov. Rick Scott is appointing members to the commission based, it seems, primarily on their support of the Republican Party, not any overriding interest in wildlife management and conservation.

I’m willing to reserve judgment on how the new appointees work out until after I see them in action.

It has been a long time since there has been an FWC commissioner with a background in biological science.

But the FWC staff has a large corps of subject matter experts on all aspects of wildlife conservation management and they bring that information to commissioners for policy decisions. As long as the staff can make a good case of the decision and commissioners are willing to listen, the professional background of commissioners may be less important.

How those policy decisions are made and carried out is important to the future because of the challenges the state faces from population growth, natural resource impacts and changing outdoor recreation preferences.

It is probably relevant that at FWC’s last meeting earlier this month in Gainesville, commissioners were provided with a comprehensive overview of the history of wildlife conservation and management and its future challenges.

One big issue will involve how wildlife management and conservation will be funded in the future in Florida.

Despite claims by the old guard that hunters and anglers carry the funding load for everyone else, the figures don’t back that up.

I addressed that issue in a recent column in The Ledger.

The problem is the only way to fix the funding issue is either through legislature or through a constitutional amendment, though that would ultimately require approval by the Florida Legislature to implement, as we learned through the current Florida Forever funding debacle.

That will require political support and perhaps having politically connected appointees on FWC could help the cause if they’re so inclined.

Posted in Group Conservation Issues.