Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Good old boys win at AZ Game & Fish with Voyles

Larry Voyles

PHOENIX -- As an Arizona hunter and conservationist, I am not happy the Arizona Game and Fish Commission announced yesterday it has hired controversial Larry Voyles as the new director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, effective when current director Duane Shroufe retires in March.

Voyles has been with Game and Fish for nearly 35 years and is currently supervisor for the department's Yuma region, which handles field operations in southwestern Arizona.

Voyles was deeply involved last year in the McPherson Tank cover-up on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and collusion with the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club to keep the illegal project secret. He has a disdain for wilderness, as does John Hervert, who will likely become the Yuma region supervisor.

Voyles is known to be anti-predator and particularly un-progressive when it comes to wildlife issues. He will be taking his marching orders from the anti-environmental Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, which too often targets wilderness, cougars, and 'non-game' conservation. They also do not allow women to join, and are stuck in a previous century in many respects.

Disturbing public records obtained by greens last year showed a chain of emails from Voyles regarding development in the Kofa NWR wilderness, and a total lack of regards for the pumas, the refuge, and the people who were concerned about them.

Voyles was one of two internal finalists considered by the Game and Fish Commission in Monday's public session. The commission received more than 30 applications after conducting a nationwide search. Initial interviews were conducted with six people.

Voyles will lead an agency that employs more than 600 employees and is funded at more than $80 million per year from multiple funding sources, primarily the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal assistance from an excise tax on hunting and fishing gear, and several other sources such as the Heritage Fund (lottery proceeds), Wildlife Conservation Fund (tribal gaming revenue), watercraft licensing, and state wildlife grants.

He will work side-by-side with Shroufe until the latter's retirement in order to ensure a smooth transition and will fill out the remainder of Shroufe's original five-year contract through January 2009. In December, Shroufe requested, and was granted, commission approval to retire early this coming March after serving as director for nearly 20 years.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department director is appointed by and reports to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. The director serves as the department's chief administrative officer and is responsible for the general supervision and control of all activities, functions and employees of the department.

Voyles is a very poor pick for Director by an out-of-touch Commission that needs a major shake-up. I'm certain there were better candidates for the job, but none that have proved themselves to be such a trusted good old boy as Voyles, which is why he got the job.


Ron Kearns said...

I am opposed to Mr. Larry Voyles’ selection as director of the AGFD based on recent ill-conceived management decisions he was involved in that engendered a lawsuit. I do not question his wildlife management experience, for which he is well qualified; however, I do question his honesty, integrity, character, and his biasedness regarding decision-making and his disregard for oaths of office. I have known Mr. Voyles for over 25 years and I once respected him personally and professionally. Supervisor Voyles, his Region IV staff, and I, as a wildlife biologist for Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, worked collaborative with State/Federal wildlife management of Kofa NWR, especially concerning bighorn sheep management. Mr. Voyles and I conducted a few law enforcement cases together with one notable case involving Hunt Saboteurs harassing Kofa bighorn hunters. Many issues involving deceitful mismanagement of Kofa wildlife and wilderness since my retirement 2 years ago in January 2006 have changed my respect for Mr. Voyles and some of his staff wildlife biologists, specifically Mr. John Hervert. I penned a 27-page letter that I sent last October 17, 2007 to the AGFD Commissioners, the AGFD Region IV staff, the USFWS staffs at Kofa NWR and the Region 2 Regional Office in Albuquerque, several BLM staffers, and several State and Federal legislators. I documented mismanagement of Kofa NWR wildlife and wilderness based on my combined 31-years plus of professional and avocational experience of Kofa and from public documents obtained through a public records request pursuant to the Arizona Public Records Act/Law. I never received a reply to my letter from any of the 5 commissioners, although I was critical of Mr. Voyles’ disingenuousness and misstatements. If the commissioners read my letter, then they discounted my concerns of Mr. Voyles and others on his staff during their Executive Session and the interview process.

With all due respect to those dedicated AGFD Commissioners, several of whom I respect, their decision to select the director appeared predetermined and biased toward current AGFD employees who were also the 2 finalists. Director Shroufe’s early retirement set the stage for a commissioner, whose term was expiring, to cast a vote for the new director before a new commissioner was tenured. The departing commissioner, previous Chairman Michael Golightly, is a strong proponent of the House Concurrent Memorial 2008 that championed a unilateral AGFD take-over of Kofa NWR wildlife management from the federal government staff. The genesis of the HCM 2008 came from the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club and their closely allied associates of the Yuma AGFD Region IV staff, including Supervisor Voyles, who are strongly anti-mountain lion and anti-wilderness.

Mr. Voyles was eligible for retirement with full law enforcement benefits before or at the end of the 2008 Arizona fiscal year this July 1. I had heard last summer 2007 that he was going to retire in May or June of 2008. I was surprised when I read on Monday that he was 1 of the 2 finalists for director. However, Mr. Shroufe’s early retirement gave Mr. Voyles an incentive against retirement and perhaps that was the plan all along. The AGFD stated, and I have seen this happen in the federal government, that their job advertisement was nationwide, giving false chances to people outside of Arizona who submit applications, when the AGFD may have already made a selection (had someone in mind). That is one reason in the federal government for fair OPM hiring rules and regulations. However, those rules are sometimes circumvented and I am concerned that if Arizona has similar rules they were overlooked or abrogated in this specific selection process.

I dislike the politics involved in the selection of Mr. Larry Voyles. Part of the statement in the AGFD news release is factual; "He brings more than three decades of experience in wildlife management to the director's position, as well as the respect of colleagues and the public." However, those of us that are aware of Voyles’ and his staffs’ collusion with a Yuma private hunt/gun club, and an inept, inexperienced Kofa NWR manager, Mr. Paul Cornes and his unethical assistant, Ms. Susanna Henry, to install a secret artificial water development in wilderness, with complete disregard for a larger public constituency, do not share that respect. The bizarre and irrational reason for the secretiveness of the water development and convincing members of the hunting public to “keep quiet” about it should raise serious questions regarding Mr. Voyles’ fitness for the directorship. If Mr. Ferrell and the other applicants who applied for the director’s job and did not make the cut knew of such deceitful collusion, would they still have respect for Mr. Voyles? In addition, will they and others continue to view him as the best leader of a critically important agency of many fine ethical employees whose integrity and honesty the hunting public, members of conservation community, and the general public must trust to conduct official business in a fair, equitable manner to all, especially during law enforcement? Alternatively, will they and others instead view Mr. Voyles’ leadership as an endorsement for “new McPherson Tank” styles of deceitful and unlawful mismanagement in wildernesses and vanishing wildlands throughout this great State of Arizona?

John said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Ariozona's Game and Fish policies. Born in Cottonwood in 1940 and raised in Arizona I have seen the increase in wildlife population and hunting opportunities in this state. If the lions were left alone in the Kofa's they soon would all expire. No sheep, no lions, simple as that. Lets not use California policies and place the predatory lion on a pedestal