Hunters Eyeing Noonan at Fish, Wildlife Agency

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Hunters are unhappy that Art Noonan, the new second-in-command at Fish, Wildlife and Parks, doesn’t hunt or fish.

But his boss, Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Joe Maurier, says Noonan has other things on his resume that will make him good at the job.

“What people may not realize about Art is his extensive background on land issues, in particular at the federal level,” Maurier said Thursday.

Noonan, a state legislator from Butte who previously was director of the Montana Democratic Party, was named to the job late last month after Chris Smith was reassigned to special projects.

Noonan used to be a congressional staffer on natural resource and wilderness issues. As a state legislator, he has worked closely on FWP issues and budgeting concerns.

Many avid hunters said they were willing to see how Noonan does. Others were more skeptical.

“If the guy’s a non-hunter, then what the hell is he doing in there?” said Gary Carvajal, an officer with the Montana Bowhunters Association.

Hunters and anglers feel a sense of ownership over FWP, pointing out that almost all of its operational budget comes from hunting and fishing licenses.

Tim Aldrich, president of the Montana Wildlife Federation, said he’s reserving judgment on the issue until he speaks with Maurier about the choice.

“I am kind of holding my fire until I have more information as to why that type of selection was made,” Aldrich said. “There is reason for people to ask questions, but there isn’t reason for people to be too critical until they know what this is all about.”

David Pierce, a Kalispell hunter who keeps tabs on FWP issues, was pleased the agency is shaking things up with a reorganization. But he has some “heartburn” over the naming of a non-hunter for such a senior post.

“I would think he should be better versed in our game situation,” Pierce said.

Montana Outfitters and Guides Association director Mac Minard said the trend around the nation has more people entering game departments from outside the field or area of interest, even those in leadership posts.

Noonan said he doesn’t understand questions over his status as someone who doesn’t hunt.

“That implies to people that I’m anti-hunting, which is of course not the case,” he said. “The position I was put in here is not a position to go out and hunt.”

He said the 35-plus years he has spent on public lands issues is the only relevant part of his resume.

Maurier said nothing in the deputy director’s job description requires a hunting or angling background. The issue didn’t even come up in the job interview, he said.

“The whole issue is a red herring,” Maurier said. “I’m kind of glad he doesn’t hunt — it will keep somebody in the office during hunting season.”