The Utah Wildlife Federation is calling for legislation to remove the director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources from the governor's list of political appointees.
Verl Davis, federation president, said the call responds to Bill Geer's firing by Gov. Norm Bangerter and the governor's allegation that the federation took an active political role in the recent election.In a letter to Bangerter, Davis wrote, "This letter is to advise you that the Utah Wildlife Federation did not support any political candidate. The Utah Wildlife Federation's policy prohibits the support or opposition of any candidate. This policy was followed in this election." Davis did acknowledge, however, that members may have participated in the election, but were acting on their own behalf and not as spokesmen for the organization.
In the letter, Davis asked Bangerter to remove Geer from the political appointee list and expressed a desire to work closely with the governor in a "non-confrontational mode."
Davis said Bangerter failed to respond to the Dec. 1 letter but added that Geer's subsequent firing was "answer enough."
The federation is urging other wildlife organizations to join in supporting legislation to remove the division director as a political appointee and make it a professional appointment.
Davis said strong resentment exists among outdoor groups to the governor's action on Geer.
"It is a gut issue, and we don't want to see wildlife decisions made in a political/development environment," Davis said. "These decisions are too important to our lifestyle and our quality of life in Utah. What's good for development is not always good for Utah."
In addition to having the division director removed as a political appointee, the federation will also ask legislators to create an independent Wildlife Commission similar to those used in other states. Such an effort would require widespread support from all outdoor groups and sportsmen to succeed, however.
"The last time we tried to get the law reversed, the effort died because of sportsman apathy," Davis said. "To the UWF this is a resource-management issue and must not be a partisan politics issue."