July 31, 2023

Who’s the Boss?: A Deeper Dive into the State Wildlife Management Authority Conversation

Article Contact: Kent Keene, Bob Matthews, Jake Gould,

Why It Matters: State fish and wildlife agencies stand at the forefront, not only in terms of the management of our nation’s public trust fish and wildlife resources, but as it relates to our ability to pursue them. With that in mind, it is important that we, as sportsmen and women, understand the importance of state agency management authority and the steps that we can take to play an active role in the conservation process.

  • During the most recent installment in CSF’s 2023 Summer Webinar Series, guests representing state legislatures, fish and wildlife agencies, and the sporting-conservation community joined CSF ‘s States Program Team and an expert lineup of panelists for a discussion of state fish and wildlife management authority.
  • Staffed with expertly trained biologists and charged with the management of our public trust resources through the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, state agencies are unquestionably the best positioned to make science-based management decisions.
  • While CSF supports state agency authority, we also encourage sportsmen and women to play an active role by voicing their opinions during public comment periods in the rulemaking process.

When was the last time that you interacted with a representative of your state’s fish and wildlife management agency? For many sportsmen and women, the answer might be the last time you were inspected by a game warden or conservation agent, maybe as recently as during a summer fishing trip. When staff at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) begin to discuss state wildlife management authority, these interactions, which we hope always proceed smoothly, are the image that our conversations often generate. However, this isn’t exactly what we are referring to when we talk about authority.

Thanks largely to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, arguably the most effective wildlife management framework in the world, state fish and wildlife agencies are charged with the conservation and management of their state’s wildlife populations in trust for the citizens of that state. This model, and the responsibilities that it places on state agencies, is why they are staffed with the best and brightest biologists whose professional training and expertise makes them the best equipped to make science-based fish and wildlife management decisions.

In today’s society, we are seeing more and more examples of those who disagree with state agency officials regarding the management of our public trust resources. These groups use tactics such as ballot initiatives and lobbying campaigns to force agencies to take actions that aren’t in line with the agency’s mission and our passions as sportsmen and women. As a first line of defense against these efforts to undermine wildlife management, and opportunities to participate in our time-honored outdoor traditions, we must support our state agencies and take steps to protect their authority.

While CSF remains steadfast in our support for state fish and wildlife management authority, we also remain active participants in the fish and wildlife management conversation. As “trustees” in each of our home states, and as representatives of the sporting-conservation community across the nation, it is our duty to voice our thoughts on proposed management decisions (e.g., regulatory proposals) during public comment opportunities held my most state fish and wildlife commissions. This is where you, too, can become an active player in the process. By staying informed and making your voice heard, you can join the conversation and assist in the sustainable conservation of our public trust resources, as well as our opportunities to enjoy them.

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