CAMPBELL CALLS ENDANGERED SPECIES CRITICISM UNFOUNDED

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CAMPBELL CALLS ENDANGERED SPECIES CRITICISM UNFOUNDED

Date: 040202
From: http://www.nj.com/sports/ledger/

By Fred J. Aun, Star-Ledger, February 01, 2004

Bradley Campbell wishes New Jersey's sportsmen would be a bit more
trustful. And if they're concerned about something, they shouldn't
immediately go over his head and send letters to his boss: The
governor.

Campbell, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP), was unhappy with a letter to Gov. James E. McGreevey
sent Jan. 24 by the Sussex County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.
That's understandable, since the letter criticized Campbell for making
a decision he says he never made.

In a nutshell, the federation told McGreevey that Campbell planned to
remove the state Bureau of Endangered and Non-Game Species from its
long-standing home within the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.
"This is not a good idea," insisted the letter, signed by federation
secretary Dick Strobel.

However, nobody from the federation asked Campbell if he really was
pursuing the change. That really bothers him, he said. If asked, he
would have acknowledged he's considering a dozen ways of reorganizing
the DEP, but hasn't made any decisions and is seeking recommendations.

In a Jan. 27 letter that seems to reflect his irritation, Campbell
asked the federation to give him a chance to address concerns before
it goes and complains to the governor.

"Gov. McGreevey has asked me to respond to your letter..." wrote the
commissioner. "While I am considering a range of changes to our
Division of Natural and Historic Resources, the changes you recite are
not among those now being considered. I encourage you to contact my
office directly rather than write to Gov. McGreevey on an erroneous
premise."

He signed off with the word "cheers."

The whole thing might be viewed as a tempest in a teapot, but it goes
a bit deeper than that. Strobel acknowledged that, while he "helped"
write the letter, it was mainly penned by Jan McDowell, the wife of
former Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Bob McDowell. He also
said McDowell, a member of the federation and an outdoors writer for a
local newspaper, followed-up the letter with a column in the paper.

The newspaper subsequently ran a page-one story titled "DEP Plans
Spark Concern" in which it quoted members of the state Endangered and
Non-Game Species Advisory Committee as remembering Campbell making the
suggestion at a recent committee meeting.

DIZZY YET?

The federation's letter sure sounded authoritative and factual. It
said federation members "understand" Campbell was going to take the
endangered and non-game species section away from Fish and Wildlife
and merge it "into a new office along with the State Forest Service,
the Natural Resources Damages program and a new Biodiversity Program,
which includes the Natural Lands Management Program, currently in the
Division of Parks and Forestry."

A schematic might be helpful at this point, but the bottom line - in
the eyes of the federation - is fear "this entire new unit would be
administered by a political appointee who would be subject to the
whims of various administrations and not the dedicated, university-
trained scientists doing outstanding resource conservation work
through the Division of Fish and Wildlife."

The endangered and non-game program gets most of its funding from the
sale of "conserve wildlife" license plates and grants that come
through Fish and Wildlife (which gets most of its dollars from hunting
and fishing license fees), said Jane Morton Galetto. She's the
chairman of the advisory panel that oversees the endangered and non-
game program and she happens to be one of the folks who attended the
meeting where Campbell supposedly laid out his unpopular idea.

'It's clear to me that that was an option, but I don't know what
options he's going to ultimately execute," she said. "What we did was
we made our concerns known. We told him where we agreed with him and
what we felt were the possibilities or drawbacks of the different
options he's looking at. No matter what he chooses, there's going to
be negatives."

Campbell said he will do nothing without first consulting the Fish
and Game Council, the advisory panel overseeing the Division of Fish
and Wildlife. He insisted he's not gunning to undermine Fish and
Wildlife, but he's determined to reorganize and consolidate his
department to reflect the interdependent biodiversity of nature.

'There are a number of programs that impact species' habitat," he
said. Noting that "threatened and endangered plants are not in the
same program as threatened and endangered animals and threatened and
endangered animals programs are separate from lands management
programs," the commissioner questioned the wisdom of keeping these
inter-related efforts separated.

* * *

Fred J. Aun covers the outdoors for The Star-Ledger. He can be reached
at outdoors@starledger.com
Copyright 2004 The Star-Ledger.