By Matt Renda
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Regional wildlife advocates and Lake Tahoe residents are taking their case to the state capitol regarding the Nevada Wildlife Commission’s alleged disregard for a slew of strenuous arguments against the idea of bear hunting in Nevada.
Over the past few days, residents have written various letters to the editors of regional newspapers, as well as to Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons’ and Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval’s offices, asking for the commission’s recent 8-0 vote to allow bear hunts to be reconsidered.
“It is with great heaviness in my heart that I write to you with the urgent request that you reconsider your Nevada Wildlife Commission ruling to establish Nevada’s first black bear hunt,” wrote Incline resident Jennifer Hillman in a letter to Sandoval. “This ruling was voted and approved into action by eight NWC board members and is not the will of the people, the majority of us who call Nevada home.”
The nine-member, governor-appointed wildlife commission — which governs the Nevada Department of Wildlife — plans to approve the particulars of the hunt, including a tag quota and length of season, by the spring of 2011.
Commissioners OK’d the hunt despite many disapproving of it.
NDW spokesman Chris Healy said 42 people spoke out against the hunt and 20 voiced support for it during the Dec. 3-4 hearing in Reno.
Furthermore, Commission Chairman Scott Raine mentioned during the meeting that NDW received more than 2,000 e-mails regarding the hunt, said Madonna Dunbar, an Incline Village resident and regional wildlife advocate who attended the hearing. He referred to the many messages as spam, therefore dismissing the input, she said.
Raine did not publicly reveal how many of the e-mails were for or against the proposed hunt during the hearing, she said.
“It would have been nice to have the numbers, because if it was close to 50/50, I could understand why the panel voted the way they did,” she said.
Raine is out of the country on vacation and could not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
“The whole attitude of the panel members indicated they had already made up their minds and they were just enduring the public comment sessions before they could get to the vote,” Dunbar said. “You could tell be the body language — there was a lot of eye rolling and heavy sighs.”
In a phone interview this week, Gerald Lent, vice chairman of the Nevada Wildlife Commission, took exception to mounting criticism.
“I listened to their concepts,” Lent said. “As a matter of fact, someone brought up that bears should not be hunted during the spring when there is a chance of killing the mother of cubs. For this reason, I will not support a year-round hunt or any hunting during the spring.”
“The nine-member wildlife commission is (composed) of five ‘sportsmen’, two ‘rancher/farmers,’ one ‘citizen at large’ and one ‘conservationist,’” she said in a November interview. “It is no wonder the commission demonstrates such a narrow (viewpoint).”
“Because the viewpoints of wildlife management need to be considered from both a hunting and non-hunting perspective, the wildlife commission needs to be revamped,” she said.
Gibbons spokesman Daniel Burns said those opposed to the vote or how the commission is composed should speak with state legislators.
“The state statutes describe the selection process and spells out the type of people that are considered for the panel,” Burns said.
State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, who represents Incline Village as part of District 4, said if residents have a problem with the makeup of the commission, that must be addressed at the policy level.
“I encourage residents interested in changing how the commission is formed to assemble their arguments and attend the Legislature,” he said. “As the representative for Incline Village, I am willing to sit down and hear their concerns.”
Nevada is home to an estimated 200 to 300 bears along the eastern Sierra, according to Nevada Department of Wildlife, with most in the Carson Range on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore. There also are an unknown number of bears in the Wassuk and Sweetwater ranges to the south.
Carl Lackey, a biologist with NDW who has worked for years with the state’s black bear population, pointed out, however, that bears do not recognize borders, and overall, the Sierra Nevada supports a population of 10,000-15,000 bears.
“The bear population in Nevada could easily withstand a limited hunt,” he said.