SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There isn’t a bill in place to do it yet, but West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Steve McDaniel is calling for a restructuring of the West Virginia Natural Resources Commission. McDaniel told members of the Commission about the idea he’s pressing lawmakers to adopt during Sunday’s Commission meeting held in South Charleston and via Zoom.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a surprise, but I didn’t want Commissioners to hear about it without hearing from me first,” McDaniel said during the Director’s remarks segment of Sunday’s meeting.
Since becoming DNR Director, McDaniel told Commissioners he had received many questions about the agency’s districts. He believed the state’s sportsmen are not evenly represented on the Commission.
“The DNR is set up into six districts. We have not represented all of the districts as far back as several decades as far as I can tell,” McDaniel stated.
According to McDaniel the DNR’s District 3 which includes the counties of Braxton, Clay, Nicholas, Webster, Pocahontas, Upshur, Randolph, Lewis and District 6 which encompasses Wood, Wirt, Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, and Tyler Counties have no representative on the panel.
State code requires each of the state’s Congressional Districts to have representation and the other members are at-large appointments. McDaniel will push state lawmakers for a bill to change the code to require the appointment of a Commissioner from each of the DNR’s six districts and one at-large Commissioner. All would still be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The Director also wanted the new look Commission to have term limits.
“It would take the term limits from seven down to four years and give the Governor the opportunity to appoint all of the commissioners over a four-year period. Commissioners would be able to be on the commission for two terms or eight years,” said McDaniel.
The Commission is established by state code and is specifically mandated, “…be a commission advisory to the director and to the Department of Natural Resources.”
More generally the Commission is tasked to make decisions regarding season dates, bag limits, and other game and fish regulations which are not embedded in state code. The idea of the Commission is to have a voice for sportsmen in the decision making process of the Division of Natural Resources without having to have highly technical issues of biology and game management legislated by lawmakers.