Posted: Apr 11, 2013 4:17 PM by MTN News with Marnee Banks reporting
Updated: Apr 12, 2013 8:18 AM
HELENA - A leading member of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission has resigned after reportedly hearing that Senate Republicans were going to deny his confirmation.
After four years of service, Commissioner Bob Ream submitted his letter of resignation to Gov. Steve Bullock today. In a letter, Ream said that several Republicans told him he would not be confirmed.
Ream says that instead of subjecting himself to hearing with a predetermined outcome, he would step down.
"I am a lightning rod apparently for some people. And we don't need to have lightning rods hindering the activities of the commission or the department. So it's best and that's the name of the game, I guess," Ream said.
Ream says he is proud of the work the commission has accomplished the past four years and it's unfortunate that this had to become a partisan issue.
Bullock issued this statement about Ream's resignation:
"As an educator, a legislator and a commissioner, Bob Ream has dedicated his life to public service and ensuring that Montana is a better place for the future generations. He's been a powerful advocate for resident hunters and anglers and a tireless supporter for the rights of everyday Montanans to access public lands, rivers and streams. I'm disappointed that he'll no longer be serving on the commission - he'll be missed."
Here's is Ream's entire statement regarding the resignation:
Today I submitted a letter of resignation from the position of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commissioner to Governor Steve Bullock. While I had hoped to continue my service on the Commission for the next 4 years, I resign from the post with great pride in the accomplishments of the Commission during my tenure as Chair from 2009 to the present.
My appointment to the Commission requires Senate confirmation. I have chosen to resign because several Republican senators told me I will not be confirmed by the Montana Senate. I choose not to waste my time on a sham hearing, nor subject myself or my family to a Senate confirmation process that has a predetermined partisan outcome.
I have spent my entire life personally and professionally on the issues that come before the FWP Commission. I was raised on my grandparents' farm in Wisconsin, where I learned the values of hard work and being a good steward of the land. As a kid I spent hours straightening nails so that grandpa could re-use them. My parents and grandparents were hunters. I beat the cornfields to flush pheasants for them, until I was old enough to carry a gun. My grandfather was a professional trap shooter and my grandmother and Annie Oakley were in the first group of women to shoot trap at the Grand American Handicap at Vandalia, Ohio in 1906.
I worked my way through college with part time work during the school year, and summers as a chokersetter in a western Washington logging camp and on trail crews. After obtaining a BS degree in Agronomy I went on to a PhD and became a scientist and educator in ecology and wildlife biology. I spent 28 years in the wildlife biology program at the University of Montana, now widely recognized as the best in the nation. My appointment to the FWP Commission, first by Governor Brian Schweitzer and next by Governor Steve Bullock, was a natural fit and capped my professional career as a wildlife biologist. Both recognized the qualifications I brought to the job. I also served in the Montana House for 16 years and on the House Fish and Game Committee, twice as Chair. I was chief sponsor on numerous pieces of natural resource legislation, including Montana's Stream Access Law, which has prevailed for nearly 30 years despite numerous attacks. The 1985 Republican House leader was the only co-sponsor of that bill. That was an era when civility and bipartisanship were common values, long before term limits and tea party vitriol crippled the legislature.
While I will miss working in this post, I am extremely proud of the Commission's work the past 4 years. The Commission has strived to find balance on some of the most contentious issues facing Montana - including wolves, elk, walleyes, wolverines, bison, and land acquisition. For the first time, with the 2012-13 wolf harvest, the wolf population has showed a decline. Tools are now in place to allow coordinated predator management in our complex predator-prey ecosystems. The amount of land purchased fee title or under easement by FWP the past 4 years is unprecedented in history, providing permanent access to future generations of Montanans. This provides some balance to the hundreds of thousands of acres of Montana land that has been purchased or leased for hunting by wealthy non-resident buyers who have locked out Montana sportsmen and women and recreationists.
The recent acquisition of 3,000 acres of the Milk River Ranch by FWP and approved by the Commission was vociferously opposed by some and supported by many others. This action opened up an additional 6,000 acres of DNRC and school trust sections to Montanans forever. FWP paid $4.7 million, but the ranch was on the market for $12.75 million. Without this action there is no doubt that it would have been bought up sooner or later by wealthy non-Montanans, as has adjacent acreage. In the past 8 years FWP has acquired over 200,000 acres of land for use by Montanans in perpetuity. Some legislators have proposed no net gain in FWP acquisitions. What that really means is a net loss for Montana hunters and fishers as available land declines and privatization of wildlife continues. I worry about the future - with partisanship in the legislature, dark money politics, an anti-science movement, privatization of wildlife, and locking up access.
However, I am heartened by the many organizations who are working constructively with FWP and the Commission to maintain our hunting and fishing heritage and Montana's wildlife resources. They deserve praise for their hard work and I commend them for their dedication. When I started on the Commission, I felt we had one of the best departments in the country. After working with FWP's dedicated staff, especially those boots-on-the- ground people who interact with the public on a daily basis, as well as the researchers and managers compiling and presenting the masses of information required. I am convinced FWP is on top. Montana's universities have worked closely with FWP in research and management activities and have turned out some outstanding biologists, park managers, and resource managers to continue into the future.
I am confident that Governor Bullock will select a replacement for my position that shares his values and mine, i.e., maintaining our wildlife heritage, maintaining access to hunting and fishing, and providing outdoor recreation opportunities and viable state parks. In summary, after more than 40 years of public service to the state of Montana, I look forward to having more time to spend hunting, boating, skiing and just plain enjoying its fantastic outdoors. I know that Governor Bullock, Director Hagener, Commission Chair Dan Vermillion and the other Commissioners will continue to accomplish great things for FWP. They know that I am available to them as a resource at any time. I am deeply humbled by the outpouring of support I have received from all over the state since Governor Bullock appointed me to the Commission.