One member pushes back on plan to remake the Natural Resources Commission

WHEELING, W.Va. — A member of the state’s Natural Resources Commission is arguing against legislation that would retool the commission.

Commissioner Pete Cuffaro of Wheeling wrote a letter to all members of the House and Senate, asking them to oppose the measure, which is backed by Division of Natural Resources Director Steve McDaniel.

Cuffaro’s letter directly accused McDaniel of pushing for the bill as a retaliatory action.

“I truly believe Director McDaniel’s proposal is in response to four of the Commissioners, including me, voting down a proposal to limit the number of bucks harvested from three to two with the purchasing of proper stamps in order to do so,” Cuffaro wrote.

The buck limit vote came in the August meeting of the Natural Resources Commission after more than a year of debate and consternation. McDaniel called for the vote, seeking to settle the matter.

During a February meeting, McDaniel informed the commission about the bill he would seek.  McDaniel said the current makeup of the commission does not offer equal representation to sportsmen across the state. Instead of basing the representation on Congressional Districts, McDaniel suggested members be appointed based on their residency in the DNR’s six districts, with one at large appointment.

Cuffaro challenged those claims as well.

“It is my understanding that all Congressional Districts are in compliance with reference to representation.,” he wrote.

Cuffaro included the hometowns of each of the seven members of the current Commission which include two from the First Congressional District, two from the Second Congressional District, and three from the Third Congressional District.

The legislation would impose term limits and shorten the terms of each member of the commission. Currently, the appointments are for 7 years. The legislation would reduce those to four year terms, and each commissioner would be limited to two consecutive terms.

“The procedure of appointing commissioners on a seven year basis has worked very well over the years,” Cuffaro wrote.

“Using this type of appointment avoids interruption of fluidity of the Commission. With the present appointment procedure there is continuity among commissioners, which leads to higher productivity and efficiency amongst them while working with the director, his staff, and the numerous employees of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.”

The proposed changes are made in two versions of the bill. Senate Bill 514 is pending in the Senate Natural Resources Committee and House Bill 2867 has been assigned to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

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