Kyle Hupfer, the Department of Natural Resources director who shocked
the Hoosier outdoors/conservation community with his wholesale firing of
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) brass a couple of weeks ago, may
have mended some fences last week by standing up to the Indiana General
Assembly in an important matter.
Hupfer, you may recall, slipped the stiletto between the ribs of 10
DNR trusted officials less than a month after he moved into the state office
building. It did not set well with outdoor/conservation/resources-management
folks from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River.
But last week, when the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee
was staging a public hearing in an attempt to give the DNR’s authority
to manage deer-pen hunting to the Board of Animal Health, Hupfer rose like
a sleeping giant to thwart (at least temporarily) the underhanded tactics
of pro deer-pen hunting legislators.
The pro deer-pen hunting people and their “hench legislators” have been
trying for several years to legislate the Division of Fish and Wildlife
out of the deer management business. The obvious rationale was that if
the Board of Animal Health were running the deer-pen hunting show, this
phony-baloney kind of hunting would have carte blanche authority over this
totally unsavory, if not dangerous, “business.”
The stage obviously was set for the public hearing on a Senate Bill
527 that was about nothing in particular, perhaps not even germane. The
secret confab would hear testimony from a pro-deer-pen hunting person,
and the committee then would give its nod to the amendments which, if later
adopted, would usurp the DFW’s authority to manage such hunting and give
it to the Board of Animal Health, identified by some as a do-nothing arm
of the Department of Public Health.
There was, however, a fly in the potato soup.
Hupfer, though not invited to speak at the hearing, heard about what
was about to transpire, and called Paula Yeager, director of the Indiana
Wildlife Federation, one of the state’s most important supporters of sound
conservation/wildlife management practices. Because of health concerns,
Yeager could not get to the meeting. But she alerted Dick Mercier, president
of the Indiana Sportsmens Roundtable, a large organization of conservationists
and outdoorsmen; Gene Hopkins, a spokesman for the Indiana Bowhunters Association,
and Gary Doxtater, a former director of the DFW. Also present was Bowden
Quinn, a lobbyist for the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League of
I was not at the meeting, but a little mouse that slips around the Statehouse
and other governmental venues, later told me how the proceeding unfolded
on a floor that was not real level.
The august panel of legislators (all presumably elected to serve their
constituencies) took up the business of the day, which was to amend the
secret stuff into the Senate bill.
My informant says committee members listened intently occasionally nodding
approvingly (or because they were taking a nap) while the pro deer-pen-hunting
gentleman droned on about the necessity of doing something to make the
lives of “deer farmers” better.
That part of the agenda finished, those opposed seemed to anticipate
a chance to tell their side of the story. But that didn’t happen. Instead,
the committee amended the “goobledy-goop” into the bill on a voice vote.
All was well for the black hats, it seemed. The committee was ready
to move on to other matters without further input on the deer-pen hunting
amendment by anybody.
But wait a minute, this upstart DNR director had indicated he had input
in the matter, and was given the right to speak. Hupfer laid on the line
that the committee was legislating the DNR out of the deer-pen management
business without giving him a chance to state his case.
Some of the legislators present were not real pleased at the intrusion
in what appeared to be a done deal. But they listened as Director Hupfer
laid some facts on them that were hard to deny. When Hupfer was finished,
the others opposed to the amendment could see no reason to offer further
testimony in the matter.
After Hupfer’s input, some of the panel members seemed to change their
tune, and Committee Chairman Eric Gutwein, (R-Rensselaer) offered the opinion
that the panel may have acted hastily--that perhaps this matter should
be studied more thoroughly before further action should be taken. It should
also be said that Rep. Bob Bischoff, a member of the committee, had suggested
changes in the amendment that would have made it less obtrusive.
Another voice vote of the committee "unamended" the amendment.
Nobody at this point can say what may happen with this matter in the
future, or whether Hupfer’s actions may have been an isolated incident
brought about by the fact that the director is an avowed deer hunter.
Still, it was heartening for those who see natural resources issues
as something more than hot air for political footballs to see a director
of the DNR stand up on his hind legs and tell the legislators things they
don’t necessarily want to know.
These observers, like many other conservationists and sportsmen of the
state, also are wondering if the DNR will do a 180 from the last decade
or so when biologists and other knowledgeable people of the DFW have not
been allowed to offer their expertise in legislative matters involving
In the last several administrations, the input of hands-on people of
the DNR and DFW has been replaced by liaison people who haven’t always
understood all they knew about resource management situations. In some
cases, biologists of the DFW have been ordered to express no opinions on
Could it be, folks are wondering, that the DNR will hark back to the
good ol’ days when the welfare of resources was on a higher plane in the
legislature than the desires of selfish people who prey on aforementioned
We will see.