Last week the WRC announced the appointment of members of the Council and they held their first meeting. There are eleven members on the council – only one of which is from the mountain region. Yep, it looks like politics as usual in Raleigh. Member are: Dale Murphy of Wallace, Sue Gray of Durham, Travis Stephenson of Washington, Kevin Howell of Pisgah Forest, Arthur Dick of Greensboro, Cameron Boltes also of Washington, Owen Andrews of New Bern, Larry Stone of Kings Mountain, George Ragsdale of Jamesville, Harry Shaw of Wilmington, and David Hoyle of Dallas. Our elected officials had a chance to do the right thing and blew it.
This is not that difficult. Even a small town Alabama boy like me can figure it out. There are three distinct regions to the state: Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal. Appoint three members from each of the regions for a total of nine members. That’s an odd number so you always have a tie-breaking vote. It also provides equal representation by people who can bring knowledge and expertise on outdoor recreation activities in their respective regions. Is the math that difficult?
Oh by the way, again the mountain region with a majority of those recreational assets is under-represented. I’ve made this case before when it comes to at-large members on the WRC itself. We have one-half the Game Lands and all of the Commission supported trout streams in the mountains, yet we have minority representation on both the Commission and now the Council. I’m sure the members from the coastal region are fine folks, but they cannot begin to know the recreational opportunities and outdoor issues facing the mountain nor visa versa. That is why the Council AND the Commission should both have equitable representation from each region.
One of the jobs of the Council is to administer the Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund to support projects promoting outdoor recreational activities for youth 16 and under. So here is what will happen. This august body will meet to make decisions on which activities to support and fund. Just where do you think all the money will go? That’s right, to the coastal and piedmont regions. Oh, they’ll throw us a few crumbs in an effort to keep us quiet. The Trust Fund gets most of its money thru donations. Direct contributions to the fund will be accepted and supposedly when you buy a hunting or fishing license you will be able to contribute to the fund. I for one will not donate to the fund and encourage other mountain hunters and anglers to not donate until council membership is adjusted to fully represent the region.
Here’s what else needs to happen. Hopefully one of our elected representations reads this column. The entire legislative delegation that represents the mountain region, meaning all Senators and Representatives of both politic parties, need to send a letter signed by ALL of them to the Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker protesting the lack of representation and ask them to immediately adjust membership to include one-third representation on the Council.
Why is it politicians always tend to muck things up like this? Representation on the Council falls under the “no brainer” category. They had an opportunity to do the right thing for all citizens and failed. In my humble opinion there are some things that transcend politics. Wildlife, hunting and angling are some of those things. I’ve got friends with whom I disagree politically but we hunt and shoot together regularly. At the Council swearing in ceremony Governor McCroy said, “This Council will help preserve North Carolina’s great quality of life, natural areas and outdoor recreation for future generations of North Carolina citizens and visitors.” Well Governor McCroy, at least it will for those future generations east of I-77.