At issue | April 27 Herald-Leader article, "Wildlife department's baseball nights scrutinized; audit questions contract with team"
The intent of this letter is to respond to your recent article regarding State Auditor Crit Luallen's audit report of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The nine-member Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission represents the sportsmen and women of the commonwealth, and provides oversight and direction for the department. We are proud of the department's track record and our talented, professional staff.
Several important and relevant facts bear mentioning following the recent scrutiny of department actions. Throughout our history, we have strived to conserve and enhance Kentucky's fish and wildlife resources and to provide our customers with quality opportunities to enjoy these valuable resources.
We have overseen the restoration of such species as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, elk and bear; raised and stocked a myriad of sport fish species; acquired and managed valuable habitats; and consistently provided increased opportunity for hunting, fishing and wildlife-related recreation. This has been accomplished without state taxpayer dollars.
Today's environment calls for the department, at the commission's direction, to adapt in order to halt or reduce long-term decline of our customer base. This requires innovative marketing efforts to recruit new and diverse groups of hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers; to retain our long-time supporters, and aggressively promote Kentucky's outdoor heritage to future generations.
We have accomplished this by becoming more focused in our efforts and adapting to social change, which has included the adoption of a five-year strategic plan. This plan consists of five overarching goals, two of which are to foster a more informed and involved public and to expand and diversify our user base.
In addition to assisting with and adopting the strategic plan, the commission has also overseen the evolution of the department's new public affairs and marketing division, which has included the approval of budgets. The commission is also regularly involved in discussions involving promotional and outreach-related sponsorships initiated by our creative marketing staff.
In the case of the Louisville Bats' partnership highlighted in the recent audit report, the commission supported this initiative specifically based on such considerations as: the venue's urban location; the fact that Jefferson County is the department's No. 1 customer base in license sales; and the county's adjacency to the Ohio River, at least six Fishing in the Neighborhoods lakes, and the recently acquired Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area.
In light of these reasons, the comments issued in the recent report were disappointing.
Every member of our commission and every employee of the department take such initiatives seriously and will continue to aggressively recruit and retain a diversity of fish and wildlife-related outdoor enthusiasts. The commission was well aware of the Louisville Bats promotional event, and applauds the department for taking such a bold and innovative approach in order to raise the awareness of our fish and wildlife heritage with the urban citizens and youth of Louisville.
With the responsibility of the commission's oversight authority in mind, we will continue to exercise a watchful eye over the department, promote Kentucky's outdoor heritage, while also embracing new and innovative ideas to recruit and retain sportsmen, sportswomen and other outdoor enthusiasts.