Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Reorganizing

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is restructuring and is in the market for three managers.

The reorganization is part of an effort to “get us set up for the future,” said Director Joe Maurier, who took office six months ago.

The new structure includes a freshly minted Division of Fish and Wildlife, for which an $82,524-a-year chief is being sought. That arm of Fish, Wildlife and Parks will consolidate some long-standing divisions, including fisheries, wildlife, enforcement and communication/education, and encompass a new strategic planning unit involving staff that was widely dispersed previously.

Maurier said in a phone interview that he is “moving pieces around to be better aligned” and “nobody lost a job,” although some responsibilities are shifting.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking a deputy director at $85,508. That post has been held by Chris Smith, who Maurier said is moving to special projects that include work on a new Helena wildlife center.

The department also is preparing to hire an assistant parks administrator at a salary of $49,468 to $71,602. The administrator will succeed Chas Van Genderen, who previously held the job and is now the parks chief, the post Maurier held before Gov. Brian Schweitzer named him director of Fish, Wildlife and Parks in November. The Montana Senate confirmed the appointment in April.

The reorganization will not change the personnel head count in Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Maurier said. The department has the equivalent of 693 full-time employees, 197 of them seasonal or temporary.

Maurier said he expects internal and external candidates for the administrative jobs.

“Nationwide, recruitment is not great for Montana only because for comparable jobs our wages are a little bit lower,” he said. “But the quality of life tends to be higher. It’s a question of balance, for somebody coming in.”

Maurier presented the reorganization to the state Environmental Quality Council on Thursday.

Committee member Sen. Jim Keane, D-Butte, said Friday that he was impressed. Problems with the old structure included too much uncertainty about responsibility for certain functions within Fish, Wildlife and Parks, he said.

“It’s the old story of ‘We’ve always done it this way, let’s continue to do it this way,'” Keane said. “He (Maurier) brought a fresh look.”

Senate Fish and Game Committee Chairman Greg Barkus, who from 1989-93 served on the state commission that oversees Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said Friday that he had been unaware of the changes in the department.

Barkus, a Kalispell Republican, added that consolidating the fisheries and the wildlife divisions “probably makes sense because they’ve kind of gotten away from management of fish and wildlife and gotten into focusing more on land ownership.”

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