Ignoring the objections of a hunting group, Gov. Janet Napolitano has named a wildlife biologist to begin serving immediately on the state Game and Fish Commission.
The governor’s move came after Senate President Ken Bennett refused to schedule a floor vote to confirm Jennifer Martin before the Legislature adjourned last week. Napolitano then renominated Martin for the post — in an offsession procedure that allows Martin to actually begin serving as a voting member for a year.
Bennett’s move came following stiff opposition from Suzanne Gilstrap, who lobbies for the Arizona Wildlife Conservation Council, a group that represents hunters and anglers. Gilstrap also is the wife of Hays Gilstrap, whom Martin is replacing.
“We do not need to have biologists on the commission to start with,” she said. Gilstrap said the agency already has “probably hundreds of biologists and so that is not the skill that is needed on the commission.”
What is needed, said Gilstrap, is leadership skills.
Martin is a Northern Arizona University graduate with a degree in biology. She is a former employee of the Game and Fish Department.
“It’s like taking a bank teller and putting them on the board of the bank,” Gilstrap said.
Gilstrap conceded, though, much of the opposition turns on the fact that Martin does not hunt.
“The sportsmen are the group that provide 95 percent of the total funding for that department,” she said. “That is why we like to see a sportsman on there.”
But Todd Rathner, a board member of the National Rifle Association who lives in Tucson, said the concern of the hunters is misplaced. In fact, he called the opposition “utter nonsense.”
Rathner said he interviewed Martin when the governor first nominated her earlier this year.
“She is strongly pro hunting and sees hunting as an important, integral part of wildlife management,” he said.
Bennett said his decision not to schedule a confirmation vote gives Martin a chance to develop a “track record” of votes in the next few months that lawmakers can use next year to determine whether she should be allowed to stay on the commission. Bennett won’t have anything to say about it at that time: He is leaving the Senate at the end of this year.
Gilstrap said the Wildlife Council has not decided whether to oppose her confirmation next year.