May 7, 2014 — Kentucky’s hunters and anglers were promised last fall that the state’s wildlife agency would clean up its act under a new leader picked in a national search process.
Last Friday’s announcement of the hiring of Gregory Johnson, 58, was a big step in the right direction for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Johnson is retired from a 30-year federal job focusing on conservation issues. He spent his entire career in that field, most of it in Kentucky.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from EKU in wildlife management, fisheries biology and chemistry.
In addition, he is dedicated hunter and fisherman familiar with Kentucky’s woods and water from his time with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Johnson’s challenge is to restore confidence in the state wildlife agency after an ethics scandal led to the downfall of its previous commissioner last September.
Effectively managing a $52 million agency with 500 employees obviously is important to state government.
But it is even more so to the 560,000 persons holding Kentucky fishing licenses and another 275,000 with hunting licenses.
Sale of those licenses provides most of the department’s operating revenue with a lesser amount coming from federal taxes on hunting-and fishing-related equipment.
KDFWR is the only state agency that receives no funding from the legislature.
Johnson said the right things at his press conference, including:
"This agency's wildlife and fisheries successes are well recognized among professionals and I am looking forward to continuing and building upon those traditions."
More importantly, he understands that hunting and fishing are cherished rights in the Bluegrass State, even protected by an amendment to the state constitution.
We like how he described his new position:
"This is not just work or a job for me. Fish and wildlife conservation is what I have been committed to my whole life."