After nearly two months of searching, Utah's new chief of wildlife will come from within.

Tim Provan was named director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on Tuesday, replacing Bill Geer, who was fired in December by Gov. Norm Bangerter.Provan has been with the division for 20 years and has been assistant director of the DWR since 1987.

In making the announcement, Dee Hansen, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, said Provan "has proven his ability to manage issues facing the Division of Wildlife Resources over his many years of experience at every level of

the organization.

"I have every confidence his experience and professionalism will benefit the resources and the citizens of Utah."

Geer's firing by Gov. Bangerter touched off an angry reaction from both sportsmen and conservationists around the state.

Before the November election, every major sportsmen's and conservationist group in the state came out against Bangerter in his re-election bid, citing his lack of support for wildlife. Many considered Geer's firing political revenge on the part of the governor.

Provan said on Tuesday that he views his appointment as support for wildlife on the governor's part.

"It shows me that the governor feels good about the Division of Wildlife (Resources) and that there is expertise and strength within the division to carry on. There's comfort there knowing he feels we have the right people to carry on a strong program and still meet the initiatives of the present administration."

There were 16 applications filed for Geer's job. Hansen said six were cut because of the lack of qualifications, and that after interviews with both Bangerter and himself, the field was cut to two - Provan and Alton Frazier, a former DWR employee and now public affairs directors under Hansen.

Provan graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of California-Humboldt, then moved to Utah in 1966 to become a student trainee with the DWR. He went on to get a master's degree from Utah State University in wildlife science.

He worked in the waterfowl section for 10 years and was for a time waterfowl program coordinator for the state. He went on to become chief of the non-game division, then was named Geer's assistant in 1987.

Provan said he felt his strong technological and administrative background was a factor in his appointment, "but, also, I think one of my real strengths is in communicating.

"And one of the things I want to do is to begin a strong initiative to resolve conflicts with agriculture (and wildlife groups). We need to show some successes. I know exactly what I want to do."