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Beginning in 2020, the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission implemented new procedures for its quarterly Commission meetings to improve efficiency, increase opportunities for public input and reduce costs. The Commission discussed the changes to its meeting format at its Jan. 31, 2020 meeting. Changes to meeting format, video livestreaming of meetings, and enhanced opportunities for public comment all allow for greater transparency and involvement by the public. Commission meeting agendas are now also typically posted on the Department’s website well in advance of meetings rather than only available day-of in the physical location of the meeting. The new meeting format also saves money on travel costs and time for Commission members, staff, and stakeholders.
The Commission is a
nine-member board, comprised of volunteers who serve four-year terms after being nominated by licensed hunters and anglers, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Kentucky senate. The Commission recommends hunting, fishing and boating regulations on behalf of the sportspersons of the Commonwealth. It also hires and advises the Commissioner, approves research contracts, and oversees the disposition of agency lands.
Commission members, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staff and the public may continue to propose changes to administrative regulations related to fish and wildlife or boating, which are vetted by the chair of the Commission for review as to relevance for potential placement on a future meeting agenda.
Under the new format, proposals slated for action by the Commission will have usually undergone a multi-step review process before the Commission, allowing for public involvement along the way.
The new meeting format standardizes these steps for most regulation proposals brought to the Commission and allows at least six months from the time a proposal is introduced as new business to the time of Commission action. The process for reviewing and taking action on proposals has been slowed down to allow more time for research and public input. Under the previous format, committees of the Commission that vetted proposals often met about 30 days before a full Commission meeting when it would vote on those proposals, often giving the public as little as one month to consider and provide feedback on proposals put forth. The new process generally expands that timeframe to 180 days or more.
Generally speaking, there is now a three-step process for review of a proposed regulation change. A vetted proposal is first introduced as new business in a Commission meeting. At a subsequent meeting, the proposed change is listed as a discussion item. Finally, a business item that the Commission wishes to further consider is advanced to the next meeting as an action item, which may be the subject of a motions and vote by the Commission at one of its public meetings.
By law, at a minimum the
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission meets quarterly in Frankfort. Most meetings will include an introductory portion, followed by segments that include action items, discussion items, new business items, and public comments, respectively.
Anyone wishing to address the Commission orally must sign in before the meeting and will have 3 minutes to speak during the public comment. Members of the public may submit emailed comments on Commission business items anytime to FW.PublicAffairs@ky.gov; these comments may include statements of support or opposition, or express concerns or questions. Emailed comments regarding a business item that are received before 5pm at least two days before a scheduled meeting that includes opportunity for public comments may be read by staff during the public comment segment of the meeting. The Commission chair reserves the right to select representative comments to be shared orally or read from emails, subject to availability of time and potentially redundancy of comments. Any comments that may be libelous, profane, derogatory of others, not pertaining to business items on the meeting agenda, or redundant with other comments will also not be read publicly.
Staff may provide updates during the meetings on department programs, research, or other topics requested by the Commission.
The Commission may still address time-sensitive or routine needs in a more compressed timeline. Examples requiring more swift action are regulations to address emerging disease issues or routine items that require annual action, such as setting migratory bird regulations to comport with requirements in federal law. Sometimes special called meetings are set to address time-sensitive matters; these are announced on the department’s website as soon as possible before such meetings.
Working groups may be used as necessary by the department, with involvement in some cases by some Commission members or even stakeholders, to establish a more deliberate vetting process for some topics of interest that may be complex or controversial. Working group deliberations may lead to proposals to be brought before the Commission. To date, working groups have been formed by the department to address such topics as public relations (addressing topics such as enhanced agency-public communications and marketing and wanton waste), elk program (addressing topics such as enhancing Kentucky’s Elk Hunt Drawing and endorsing large-scale habitat improvements), and Ohio River fisheries issues.
Commission meetings are now video-livestreamed through the Department’s YouTube channel, in order to allow members of the public to view (or review) the content of meetings at their convenience. Coupled with the opportunity to submit public comments by email, the public is now afforded unprecedented access to the Commission regarding its business, so members of the public may be engaged regardless of their travel or time constraints.