Reset the FWP Wildlife Chief

On Wednesday, sources within Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks revealed that Wildlife Director Ken MacDonald has been tasked with various responsibilities.

It is said that MacDonald will now head the “habitat rental programme”. sOur owners have been granted anonymity because they may lose their jobs.

On Thursday, FWP spokesperson Greg Lemon said MacDonald will continue to serve as chief of wildlife, but that “the habitat leasing program is his top priority.”

“Sometimes this may mean that he has to attract other leaders within the wildlife department to help with other administrator-type duties. However, he remains the director of the wildlife department and will be responsible for determining how best to manage the work of the department and staff,” Lemon said at an email message.

MacDonald was head of the wildlife department or administrator for at least twelve years. Many have become familiar with him due to his numerous appearances before legislative committees, speaking for or against various bills or simply providing information on legislation that could affect Montana’s wildlife.

The 2021 legislature was the first session in which Director Hank Warsik prohibited employees from testifying on bills, so MacDonald was less clear.

However, others know him because of the myriad meetings relating to particular species, such as the Grizzly Bear Interagency Committee or the Interagency Bison Management Plan meetings, where as the FWP.

McDonald’s longevity as head of office has many wondering the reason for the sudden reset. Oftentimes, reassignment indicates the dissatisfaction of the FWP leadership with a particular employee. Since they cannot fire an employee without reason, they put the employee in an inferior position.

For example, in 2015, Arnie Dood removed From his position as Threatened and Endangered Species Coordinator where he spent years trying to establish a wild bison herd in Montana. This was before the Montana tribes began having their own herds, and bison are still confined to Yellowstone National Park and the Bison National Range.

Dodd regularly faced fierce opposition from Montana ranchers who feared bison passing brucellosis to their livestock, even though elk are the main vectors of the disease.

After Dood applied to be District 3 Superintendent in 2014 but did not get the job, the FWP leadership lowered his ranking to oversee the management of brucellosis in Paradise Valley. Since he’s already put 40 years into FWP, Dood has quit instead.

Recently, in December, Mike Thompson, the former District 2 Wildlife Manager, was suddenly relieved One of his duties while trying to reorganize the deer and elk hunting seasons. Without notice, Worsech gave him a 20-day suspension.

My work comment referred to “failure to adequately supervise my direct reports” and “chain-of-command violations”. I didn’t know we were at war. People who know me have recognized – and have recognized – my faults as being good within the 41-year standard of FWP service. I am not difficult to correct. Thomson wrote on January 12 Missoulian speech.

With that, Thompson resigned as well.

FWP is now suffering the loss of many experienced wildlife managers and biologists. Many have quit or moved into action within just the past year, as Worsech has instituted policies and programs that have little to do with science, making it difficult for dedicated biologists to do their jobs.

Now that the wildlife division has a part-time chief as well, some worry that Worsech might make changes to shrink the division further. Rather than leaving the wildlife division as its own, Worsech is rumored to be considering moving the remainder of the wildlife division under the new Parks and Recreation division as part of the FWP’s reorganization. He has already moved hunting access sites and wildlife management areas under parks and recreation.

This could have detrimental effects on the department that was once a national leader in wildlife management. It can stifle internal efforts to conserve and protect unpopular species such as large game, such as bears, wolves, and bison.

Meanwhile, it is not yet clear how a part-time chief could lead a wildlife division that manages the largest collection of species in the 48 contiguous states. For FWP biologists, MacDonald appears to be the second employee to lose part of his leadership position. Likewise, former Head of Parks Beth Shomati lowered To associate director when Worsech hired Hope Stockwell of the Montana Legislature to run the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The reference to the management of the Habitat Rental Program means that MacDonald will oversee Worsech’s modified version of the Habitat Montana programme. The Habitat Montana program used to take a certain appropriation of athlete dollars—about $2 million annually—to purchase easements or fee land for wildlife habitats. Some lawmakers oppose the FWP’s acquisition of more land, so some bills have temporarily limited Habitat Montana to purchase conservation facilities only.

Now, however, Worsech is working on a new lease program so Habitat Montana’s money will be spent on short-term habitat leases, a program that’s potentially more expensive and less permanent than the conservation facility. But it is in line with Worsech’s policy to prioritize landowners over athletes.

Email Correspondent Laura Lundquist at lundquist@missoulacurrent.com

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