"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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DNR Directorship Changes
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Scifres

As you probably know, the directorship of the Department of Natural Resources changed hands last week, and many of the state’s outdoors folks have asked me if it is for the better of resources, wildlife, and their own personal well-being.

I, of course, realizing that I am not the sharpest tack in the box, have steadfastly demurred in my answers to the $64,000 question, until there have been some experts (and absolutely sane people) available to expound on the matter.

I did, however, agree to join a panel of “in-the-know” outdoorsmen to conduct some testing of the new director by providing one question for the test. My initial "true-or-false" question was expanded to "multiple choice" to give the director a fair chance of answering correctly and, thus, qualifying for the position in the collective minds of the state’s hunters and outdoors people. It is simple and straightforward:              

The woodpecker, wood duck, woodchuck, woodcock, and wood shed (so important in some of our upbringing) are all members of a very large genus (kind) of the animal kingdom. Which of the following answers is/are correct?

A] I’m not certain. I will have to ask Mitch, and my ward chairman, what is politically correct.

B] I’ll tell you later--the economic welfare of no less than three people and my home county must be considered.

C] It depends on how I’m feeling. 

D] All of these important political considerations outweigh natural and wildlife resources.

 Levity in such a grave matter?  Since I started writing for newspapers on this important question the DFW (Division of Fish and Wildlife, formerly Division of Fish and Game) have had a few people who were more than somewhat qualified for various reasons--Woody Fleming, John Mitchell, William “Bill” Barnes, and Don Foltz, a western Indiana hog farmer, to name a few. But generally they have been politically involved--including the director who once had employees seine some smallmouth, ostensively to stock, when in reality he was planning (and carried out) a big fish fry for poitical chums.

Let’s face it. A politico in the chair of the DNR is nothing short of a round peg in a square hole. I said it 50 years ago and I am saying it now. The replacement director may very well be a great guy--even fit for a dinner invitation--and he may do some good things for wildlife and natural resources. But that is the best thing you can say for him. The new director’s strong suit is being twice elected as sheriff of Clay County.

What we need in the director of the DNR chair is a person who lives, breaths, and eats the natural resources our kids, and their kids and grandkids, can trust to deal with his charge all the days he is in power. And we need to start giving natural resources their due.

The late Governor O’Bannon was asked about the chance of getting the DNR out of politics. No chance at all, O’Bannon said, adding that it (the DNR) was too great a political plum to give up.

Supporters of Indiana’s age-old political spoils system are quick to tell you (in defense) that it (the system) accomplishes much because those in power are on “speaking terms” with other political persons. Maybe they do, but it is a weak defense, one in which the good of the party prevails over resources.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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