Robert Wood

As a 5th generation Bitterrooter, I’ve recently witnessed the drastic decline in our outdoor sporting heritage and am concerned that my grandchildren will miss out on much of what makes Montana, well Montana. And our state’s Fish & Wildlife Commission has a big part in that.

Montana has seven citizen Commissioners appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate to oversee the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, one for each administrative region.

Here in the Bitterroot, that’s Region 2. Our outgoing Commissioner, Jana Waller, did a great job, but she's leaving the state and decided not to seek a second term. Waller has publicly acknowledged that the responsibilities that came with being a commissioner were comparable to a full-time position to do it correctly. I sincerely thank and appreciate Ms. Waller’s service.

But I’m left scratching my head at how Governor Gianforte’s new Region 2 appointee, Mr. Jeff Burrows, thinks he’s going to have the time for this. Burrows, on taxpayers’ dime, currently sits on the Ravalli County Commission representing the south valley portion. Not sure how he expects to be able to juggle the responsibilities of these two demanding public positions, and am left wondering who will get the short end of the stick: Montana’s taxpayers or Montana’s sportsmen and women? Either way, we lose.

Plus, during his time on the Ravalli County Commission, Burrows has repeatedly failed to protect the public’s interest. Hughes Creek road has twice been deemed a public road by the Montana Supreme Court, yet Burrows continues to refuse to protect public access or lift a finger to reopen the road, which remains blocked. Yet somehow Gov. Gianforte thinks he’ll protect the public’s interest in this new role? C’mon. Give me a break.

As an active member of many Montana sporting groups and as a founding member of the Montana Sportsmen's Alliance, I took great issue when several years ago, Mr. Burrows felt the need to question the legitimacy of the groups I helped form and am actively engaged in. I felt personally attacked – all Montana sportsmen did. This sort of conspiracy dealing, anti-public access, anti-sportsmen Burrows is the exact opposite of what Montanans want to see in charge of FWP. It’s maddening.

And it’s not like Gov. Gianforte didn’t have better options.

I know of two retired department biologists and past private lands wildlife managers who threw their names in the hat to represent Region 2. Both would have helped bridge the gap between landowners and sportsmen, and both were fully qualified to represent hunters and anglers while letting science guide their decisions. Yet both were overlooked.

Montana sportsmen better speak up before it’s too late and Mr. Burrows ends up making decisions that impact your opportunities to hunt and fish for the next four years. Contact your state Senator and members of the Senate Fish and Game and express concerns with Mr. Burrows, specifically related to Senate Resolution 3, which seeks to confirm him.

Montanans deserve better.

Robert Wood is a 5th generation Montana sportsman. He lives in Hamilton.