Senate bill aims to correct MDWFP commission

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 7, 2024

JACKSON — A Mississippi State Senate bill introduced by Sen. Angela Burks Hill would impose term limits and require additional qualifications for Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commissioners if passed. The bill is the latest in attempts by the Mississippi legislature to reform the commission. 

Senate Bill 2290 is the first bill introduced in the Senate this year referred to the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee. Under the bill, commissioners would not be able to serve more than two consecutive five-year terms and at least two commissioners would have to meet specific qualifications in education or work experience. 

The bill is similar to House Bill 188 which calls for term limits and additional commissioners with at least four of them being educated or experienced in wildlife management, conservation, biology or other related fields. Mississippi’s House has introduced a few bills to require the state to protect wildlife and to try and close a legal loophole to prevent the sale of deer by breeders. 

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SB2290 would require the commission at all times to have at least two members who have a bachelors of science degree in wildlife biology, conservation research or management or have at least 10 years of experience working in wildlife biology, conservation, management or research. 

The bill would also charge the commission with conserving, managing and developing wildlife and fishery resources “In accordance with sound scientific principles, and in collaboration with the agency staff of the department.” 

Corralling the commission

Over the past year commissioners have acted against scientific principles and best management practices for managing Chronic Wasting Disease. 

CWD is an infectious prion disease which is 100 percent always fatal in the deer family. No humans have been infected with CWD yet but there is concern it could evolve to infect humans and other animals. 

In a series of decisions, the commission has reworked the MDWFP’s Chronic Wasting Disease response plan despite the human health concern the disease poses. Mississippi set a season record for Chronic Wasting Disease positive detections this year and more could come in over the next few weeks. 

In October, MDWFP commissioners narrowly approved staff recommendations to use duck stamp money to fund projects. Farmers from the Mississippi Delta responded by urging the commission to continue to support duck stamp funding at the November MDWFP commission meeting. 

At January’s commission meeting, Commissioner Leonard Bentz made a motion to suspend or sever the relationship with the Foundation for Mississippi’s Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. His motion failed.