Senate passes Natural Resources Commission bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislation to change the guidelines for serving on the West Virginia Natural Resources Commission won overwhelming approval in the state Senate Friday. Senate Bill 514 passed the body on a vote of 30-3.

Bill Hamilton

“This is well overdue,” said Senator Bill Hamilton Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee who shepherded the bill through the Senate process.

The legislation changes the language of the state code which presently requires one member of the Commission from each of the state’s Congressional Districts.  The bill requires representation based on the Division of Natural Resources six operational districts. The seventh appointee would be at large from anywhere in West Virginia. The legislation also would reduce the terms of Commissioners from seven years to four years and allow members to serve only two consecutive terms.

The bill would also codify the DNR Director to recommend those to be appointed to the Governor.

Mike Woelfel

“These positions very seldom come open so the term limit will be more fair for more sportsmen and women in this state to be able to serve on this board,” said Senator Randy Smith of Tucker County.

“As we move forward with tourism being one of our primary ways to attract new residents and retain young people, we need our DNR to be more nimble. We need flexibility. We need term limits,” said Cabell County Senator Mike Woelfel.

The legislation would immediately end the current terms of all seven members of the Commission and would call for the Governor to reappoint Commissioners based on the legislation’s new representation requirements. Although DNR Director Steve McDaniel has indicated some of the sitting commissioners would be reappointed, there is no requirement for the Commissioners to remain the same.  Such a sweeping change concerned Senator Ron Stollings of Boone County.

Ron Stollings

“I’m for many concepts of this bill, the shorter time, the term limits and getting new blood into the system is good. But my concern is we have a good, functioning Natural Resources Commission and we have the potential here to just basically erase that for no good reason,” Stollings to members on the floor.

Stollings was one of the three nay votes along with Logan County Senator Rupie Phillips and Dave Sypolt of Preston County. The bill now heads to the House of Delegates.

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