Wildlife agency operates well, is fully accountable

June 24, 2013 

  • At issue: June 12 Herald-Leader article, "Legislative panel declines to OK wildlife head's contract" and June 13 Herald-Leader editorial, "Who's in charge? More transparency, oversight at Fish and Wildlife"

Recent accusations have called into question the competence and integrity of the department staff, directors and commissioners of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

You question our competence? Our fish and wildlife programs and our employees at every level are frequently recognized as among the nation's elite. Our employees serve in leadership roles on many national and international committees and use these positions to formulate policies that benefit Kentucky and our nation's wildlife and their habitats.

You have questioned our integrity? Past audits, lawsuits and ethics inquiries have been consistently resolved with no wrongdoing found. In fact, KDFWR has been subject to both state and federal audits, every three years and five years respectively, to ensure proper management of license revenues and federal funds, and overall compliance with state and federal regulations.

The 2010 General Assembly asked for a third audit, annually, to examine the separate revenue streams, expenditures, internal controls and operating procedures. In the current year's audit, the department had a clean audit that resulted in no negative findings.

Structurally, the department is under direct control of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission, which meets at least eight times annually and conducts business open to the public, in compliance with Kentucky's open meetings requirements. Administrative oversight is through the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet; all personnel and nearly all purchasing actions are subject to cabinet-level approval.

And the department has operated within budget in each of the past eight fiscal years. Department expenditures, like other state agencies', are available on Kentucky's Open Door website:Opendoor.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

The department also conducts a minimum of nine townhall meetings each year, one in each commission district. We also attend many public meetings throughout the year. Most recently I, along with Commissioner Jon Gassett and other department employees, spoke at the League of Kentucky Sportsman's annual convention. It was described by the league as an outstanding meeting, and they all appreciated the department's detailed presentations and attendance. We welcome you to attend any of these public meetings and join in the conversation on conservation at any time.

Our fish, wildlife and conservation programs are some of the highest recognized management practices in the country, and this is indisputable. Elk and bear are back roaming their native Kentucky grounds.

In fact, Kentucky boasts the most successful elk re introduction east of the Rocky Mountains with a population likely in excess of 10,000 elk.

We are a model program that states throughout the country are emulating. Turkeys are very healthy with several hundred thousand birds, and our deer herd, approaching one million, recently led to Kentucky being named by Outdoor Life Magazine as the United States' "Number One Whitetail Trophy Destination." And to add to our pride, we are the only state agency to ever receive Quality Deer Management Association's "Agency of the Year" award twice.

We care for game species and non-game species alike, and this is of tremendous benefit to all of our citizens. Together these wildlife populations through hunting, fishing and wildlife watching are directly responsible for billions in economic benefit and tens of thousands of jobs.

As for open communication, the award-winning Kentucky Afield television show, the longest continuously running outdoors television show in the nation, is broadcast in 13 different venues, including YouTube, where episodes have been viewed more that 16 million times. The show was just nominated for four more Emmys. Kentucky Afield Magazine, weekly news releases, a Facebook page with nearly 50,000 followers, and monthly newsletters all add to the department's communication and public face.

Kentucky's Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is not only among the most open and public of state agencies, its successes are among the most visible anywhere. Since its cost is shouldered by only a quarter of all Kentuckians, those successes are among the best deals anywhere for all of our citizens. Healthy and abundant deer, wild turkey, elk, falcons and fisheries beautify the landscape, supercharge the economy and create jobs by the thousands at no cost to them.

So as for "clubby," I believe that Kentucky's sportsmen and women are quite proud of our "club," and I personally encourage everyone to purchase a hunting and/or fishing license and join the club.

So you asked in your editorial "Who is in charge?" at the agency. The answer: The sportsmen and women of Kentucky, the employees of the department and the nine-member commission nominated by the sportsmen and women, appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate, are all in charge.

Recent accusations have called into question the competence and integrity of the department staff, directors and commissioners of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

You question our competence? Our fish and wildlife programs and our employees at every level are frequently recognized as among the nation's elite. Our employees serve in leadership roles on many national and international committees and use these positions to formulate policies that benefit Kentucky and our nation's wildlife and their habitats.

You have questioned our integrity? Past audits, lawsuits and ethics inquiries have been consistently resolved with no wrongdoing found. In fact, KDFWR has been subject to both state and federal audits, every three years and five years respectively, to ensure proper management of license revenues and federal funds, and overall compliance with state and federal regulations.

The 2010 General Assembly asked for a third audit, annually, to examine the separate revenue streams, expenditures, internal controls and operating procedures. In the current year's audit, the department had a clean audit that resulted in no negative findings.

Structurally, the department is under direct control of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission, which meets at least eight times annually and conducts business open to the public, in compliance with Kentucky's open meetings requirements. Administrative oversight is through the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet; all personnel and nearly all purchasing actions are subject to cabinet-level approval.

And the department has operated within budget in each of the past eight fiscal years. Department expenditures, like other state agencies', are available on Kentucky's Open Door website: Opendoor.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

The department also conducts a minimum of nine townhall meetings each year, one in each commission district. We also attend many public meetings throughout the year. Most recently I, along with Commissioner Jon Gassett and other department employees, spoke at the League of Kentucky Sportsman's annual convention. It was described by the league as an outstanding meeting, and they all appreciated the department's detailed presentations and attendance. We welcome you to attend any of these public meetings and join in the conversation on conservation at any time.

Our fish, wildlife and conservation programs are some of the highest recognized management practices in the country, and this is indisputable. Elk and bear are back roaming their native Kentucky grounds.

In fact, Kentucky boasts the most successful elk re introduction east of the Rocky Mountains with a population likely in excess of 10,000 elk.

We are a model program that states throughout the country are emulating. Turkeys are very healthy with several hundred thousand birds, and our deer herd, approaching one million, recently led to Kentucky being named by Outdoor Life Magazine as the United States' "Number One Whitetail Trophy Destination." And to add to our pride, we are the only state agency to ever receive Quality Deer Management Association's "Agency of the Year" award twice.

We care for game species and non-game species alike, and this is of tremendous benefit to all of our citizens. Together these wildlife populations through hunting, fishing and wildlife watching are directly responsible for billions in economic benefit and tens of thousands of jobs.

As for open communication, the award-winning Kentucky Afield television show, the longest continuously running outdoors television show in the nation, is broadcast in 13 different venues, including YouTube, where episodes have been viewed more that 16 million times. The show was just nominated for four more Emmys. Kentucky Afield Magazine, weekly news releases, a Facebook page with nearly 50,000 followers, and monthly newsletters all add to the department's communication and public face.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is not only among the most open and public of state agencies, its successes are among the most visible anywhere. Since its cost is shouldered by only a quarter of all Kentuckians, those successes are among the best deals anywhere for all of our citizens. Healthy and abundant deer, wild turkey, elk, falcons and fisheries beautify the landscape, supercharge the economy and create jobs by the thousands at no cost to them.

So as for "clubby," I believe that Kentucky's sportsmen and women are quite proud of our "club," and I encourage everyone to buy a hunting and/or fishing license and join the club.

So you asked in your editorial "Who is in charge?" at the agency. The answer: The sportsmen and women of Kentucky, the employees of the department and the nine- member commission nominated by the sportsmen and women, appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate, are all in charge.


At issue: June 12 Herald-Leader article, "Legislative panel declines to OK wildlife head's contract" and June 13 Herald-Leader editorial, "Who's in charge? More transparency, oversight at Fish and Wildlife"

Stuart Ray is commissioner and chairman of Kentucky's Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

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