By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board will welcome new members and share its appreciation with departing members at its first meeting of 2018 in February.

Jessica Butler of Scottsboro and Greg Barksdale of Hanceville will join the board as first-time members, while Brock Jones of Boligee returns to the board for a new term.

“I’m excited to have Jessica Butler and Greg Barksdale as new additions to the board,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Both seem to have a real passion for the outdoors, and they may bring a different perspective than before. Brock Jones was appointed about a month ago, and he understands the process after being on the board previously.”

Dr. Warren Strickland of Huntsville, who served as chairman for the past several years, and Austin Ainsworth of Guntersville recently finished their terms on the board.

“I really appreciate the leadership of Dr. Strickland as chairman for the last several years and his service to the board for over a decade,” said Blankenship. “I also appreciate Austin’s contribution to the board. It’s always bittersweet when you get new members and members you’ve enjoyed working with move on to other things. I would be remiss not to thank Dr. Strickland and Austin for their service to the board and to the hunters and anglers of Alabama.”

Current board member Joseph “Joey” Dobbs Jr. of Birmingham was named the new chair of the board, and Ben Stimpson Jr. of Mobile was reappointed by Gov. Kay Ivey.

“I’m also looking forward to working with our new chairman, Joey Dobbs,” Blankenship said. “He’s been on the board for a good while. He’s a skilled statesman and will do a very effective job of working with all the members of the board to make sure their voices are heard, and that they have the opportunity to represent their districts.”

Butler is a member of the Scottsboro City Council and Marketing Director at Highlands Medical Center in Scottsboro. She took her first buck, a 9-pointer, in the eighth grade and has been an avid hunter and angler all her life. Among her other outdoor pursuits are waterfowl hunting and fly-fishing.

Barksdale has a background in banking and insurance and has been an avid outdoorsman for 40 years. He brings a lifelong love of hunting and fishing in Alabama and several other states.  Barksdale, who is involved with the Cullman County 4-H Shotgun Sports program, pursues opportunities to mentor and educate young people about natural resources, wildlife and wilderness conservation.

Jones, a Camden native who works in finance, lives in Boligee where his outdoors endeavors include hunting deer, dove and quail in Greene and Wilcox counties.

For those not familiar with the Conservation Advisory Board, it is composed of 10 members appointed by the Governor for alternating terms of six years, and three ex-officio members. Those ex-officio members are currently Gov. Ivey, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan and Director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System Gary Lemme. The Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) serves as the ex-officio secretary of the board.

The Advisory Board, which was created by statute, meets two to three times per year to assist in formulating policies for the four DCNR divisions – Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Marine Resources, State Parks and State Lands. The board is regularly updated on all rules and regulations and takes public input at the public meetings on any issues regarding conservation and natural resources in the state. The board can offer recommendations for change or amendment to the rules and regulations. Any changes or amendments to those rules and regulations must receive approval of two-thirds of the members and the approval of the Governor to become effective.

“The Conservation Advisory Board members come from all over the state,” Blankenship said. “They work with people in their districts to understand the conservation-related issues they face and to share those with the Department.

“Also, as we have regulations, as we have needs, it’s good to work with the Advisory Board to get their advice and to get the word out about different regulations or things we’re doing in the Department.”

To ensure the public is aware of any changes in the rules and regulations, the board made changes to its procedures to get as much public input as possible before any votes are taken.

“I think people view the board as very fair,” Blankenship said. “The public can bring up an issue or a board member can bring up an issue at one meeting, but we can’t bring it up and vote on it at the same meeting. That’s been the rule of the board for the past several years. That way, people get plenty of opportunity to look at the proposals and provide public input so the decisions made by the board and the Department are very sound.

“Our process provides a good back-and-forth with the Advisory Board and the divisions of the Department and the public to try to do what’s right for the natural resources of our state and for the people who enjoy the outdoors.”

With the additions of Butler, Barksdale and Jones, the board has now reached its 10 members who represent the different districts in the state.

Representing District 1 are Stimpson and Gary Wolfe of Fairhope. District 2 is represented by Patrick Cagle of Montgomery and Grady Hartzog of Eufaula. Jeff Martin of Pell City represents District 3, while Barksdale represents District 4. Butler and Raymond Jones Jr. of Huntsville represent District 5. Dobbs is the District 6 representative, and Brock Jones is the representative from District 7.

The board usually meets in February each year, followed by a meeting later in the spring.

As numerous hunters and anglers can attest, regular attendance and input at the CAB meetings can result in the changes the public desires as long as those changes are in the best interest of the natural resources and outdoors enthusiasts in Alabama. Those who do not participate are missing a valuable opportunity for their voices to be heard.

PHOTOS (Butler photo by Maria Moore) The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board welcomes two new members and one who returns to the board. From top, Jessica Butler will represent District 5, while Greg Barksdale is the District 4 representative. Brock Jones rejoins the board to represent District 7.

###