Anytime an employee gets a new boss they are bound to be a little uneasy.
Last year at this time, Jeff Hagener was named the new director of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) by newly-elected Gov. Judy Martz.
While the governor has not faired well in all the public opinion surveys on her first year on the job, that has not been the case with Hagener — not with his own staff and not with the public.
The FWP employees I have talked to about their boss’ first year on the job were impressed. The director has to make a lot of decisions that affect sportsmen and women, wildlife, fish, and employees of the department.
Some of these decisions were on issues that are not popular no matter which way you go. It is my understanding that Hagener, after a lot input, decides what should be done and then explains to the people affected by his direction why he made that choice. You have to like that in any leader — the ability to communicate to those involved.
I had a chance to visit with Hagener last week on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show. He spoke about his first year on the job and the challenges his department faces in the upcoming year.
“It was quite a whirlwind the first year on the job learning about the issues that we face” Hagener said.
To add to the first year challenges he also had to deal with, the state legislature was also in session. He also met that challenge well.
Making landowners feel that they are getting their due has been and still is a priority for him. “Many landowners for many years have felt that they have contributed greatly to the wildlife resources, which (I think) they have” he said. “And they haven’t felt on their side that they really have been complimented for that or looked at.”
He said the department is trying to make an effort to bridge the gap that the landowners feel is currently not in their favor.
In fact, the legislature had quite a bit of discussion on courtesy tags for landowners but none of the bills passed. Hagener says he only had the chance to visit a couple of ranchers in his first year but he said that is one area that he wants to improve upon.
There has been some groups formed like the Madison Valley Ranch Lands Group which is looking at adopting hunting seasons that might be better for landowners.
New funding from resident hunters will help increase the funding for the FWP Block Management Program starting in 2002. Because of this increased funding, he expects another million acres to be added to the 8 million already in the program.
The program has been funded solely by non-resident hunters in most of its past. Hagener plans on contacting associations like the Stockgrowers and Graingrowers in an effort to let landowners know about the increased budget that will be in place for the block management program.
Many landowners in the past have been turned away because of the lack of funding.
Hagener is also hopeful that not too far in the distant future, that Montana might be able to take Grizzly Bears and Wolves off the endangered species list.
Three years of drought in the state haven’t made things easier on the resources either, according to Hagener. Working with agriculture groups on irrigation will remain a top priority. Mother Nature could help with that situation by delivering an above-normal snow pack to the mountains then above average rainfall to the rest of the state in the spring.
Hagener and his department have quite a few public meetings scheduled for the next couple of months. Do your part as a sportsman and attend those meetings and let FWP know of any issues that you think need to be addressed.