Bill Geer, the former state director of wildlife resources whose ouster from the division caused a storm of controversy last month, has landed an important and high-paying job in Washington, D.C.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, established by Congress in 1984 to assist the Interior Department, has hired him to coordinate the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The foundation is a quasi-governmental agency, a private foundation that solicits donations and also gets matching funds from the government."I am excited," Geer said Friday afternoon. He called this an excellent position, and pointed out the pay is "quite a bit more - it's nearly $60,000 (a year) to start."
The Utah position paid just under $45,000 a year.
He was removed from office when Gov. Norm Bangerter asked all department and division heads for their resignations, eventually opting to keep virtually everyone. Dee Hansen, director of the Department of Natural Resources, officially made the decision about Geer, but conservationists blasted Bangerter for it.
Geer left his Utah office on Jan. 6.
The management plan is the focal point of a 15-year, $1 billion effort to improve the condition of waterfowl throughout North America. "Much of it is habitat," Geer said - habitat development for water birds throughout the United States and Canada.
About 14 percent of the effort will be the acquisition of additional wetlands, while the rest will go into its development and improvement. The project is not limited to ducks, but concerns all sorts of waterfowl, such as geese and swans.
The project will accelerate the work of Ducks Unlimited, a group that acquires marshes, mostly in Canada, to improve duck habitat.
Millions of waterfowl winter in Mexico. But that country does not keep records on hunting, and many people hunt waterfowl to survive. Also, Mexico's widespread pollution could harm birds that migrate back to the United States.
Geer hopes Mexico can be made a partner in the project, so all of North America will be part of the waterfowl recovery.
Geer will work in a building owned by the Interior Department in Washington. He intends to move to Washington for a time, but doesn't know if the post will be centered there for months or for years.
"I'm obviously not excited about the D.C. part," he said. "I've been to D.C. many times. I was in northern Virginia yesterday looking for a place to live."
He's uncertain about when he will move to Washington because with the poor housing market in Utah, it's hard to sell a home. But his official starting date is Feb. 13.
The new job will require extensive traveling, he said. "I believe the next month I'll be in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta (all in Canada), Louisiana and California."
Department and division heads, as Geer was, serve at the governor's pleasure. They are not merit employees and can be fired at will. Utah merit system is the state equivalent of Civil Service.
After Geer's firing, wildlife protection groups called for making the position a merit job.
Although he is not a native Utahn, he has lived here for 14 years. He was ordered to clean out his desk by Feb. 3, but had so much leave time accumulated that he was able to leave almost a month earlier.