“Created in 1892, NJ Fish and Wildlife is a professional environmental agency dedicated to the protection, management and wise use of New Jersey’s fish and wildlife resources. Fish and Wildlife is part of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection under the direction of Assistant Commissioner David Golden.”
That’s from the About Us page of the recently overhauled njfishandwildlife.com website. The site is certainly cleaner, easier to navigate; but what I noticed first is the streamlined new logo that features only NJ Fish & Wildlife, the word “Division” apparently having been stricken. Years ago the old division of Fish & Game transitioned to Fish & Wildlife in an apparent effort to satisfy non-fishing and anti-gunning interests. However, this new era of political wokeness leaves me perplexed; is the word “division” really that divisive? Heck, how is math being taught in public schools today? When calculating how many times 2 goes into the 8, isn’t “division” still used to come up with 4?
Before stumbling upon the state web overhaul, I was one of six members of the public attending the July 14th meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) – there were three members of the commercial fishing community seeking support for using vacuum pumps on menhaden boats on my left, with myself and buddies John and Ed on the right making six. After two hours, I was finally able to take the podium to ask my regular questions as resident heckler.
As I’ve written numerous times, the Council is set by statute to consist of 11 members, nine appointed by the Governor of which are four who represent the interests of sports fishermen, two active commercial fin-fishermen, one active fish processor, and two members from the general public. The remaining two seats are held by the two chairmen of the Shellfisheries Council. There are currently only two voting members of the recreational fishing community since one “sports fishermen” seat belongs to Dick Herb, who as Council chair doesn’t vote; the fourth seat and that of the second “general public” member have been vacant since 2020. I know the applications of at least two highly qualified candidates have been in the governor’s appointment office since 2020, thus I inquired again at the Council meeting as to why the seats remain vacant.
“The governor has put out a policy, maybe in the form of an executive order actually, that there’s this interest in diversifying all council and committees,” Golden responded, adding “We’ve had a conversation with the (DEP) Commissioner’s office about how to fill these vacant spots given this new directive.” Golden said his staff has been asked to craft an announcement aimed at building diversity in the application process.
“We’ve put together a draft announcement that’s been shared with the Commissioner’s office, and when we get that back we will put out that announcement and give it a period of time to try to solicit that interest,” Golden said on July 14, explaining that the time period for solicitation – once the announcement is finalized – would be a few weeks. At that point, Golden said “we’ll go back to see what applications were in,” though as of August 1 nothing had been posted at njfishandwildlife.com.
“We’re being asked to follow through this directive that has come down to attempt to diversify committees and councils,” Golden added. As for being one delegate short at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission as the state seeks to also replace Tom Fote as governor’s appointee, Golden said “it’s kind of the same process as I described for the Marine Fisheries Council.”
Diversity is a fine goal indeed, but my cynicism tells me we’re all just checkboxes for somebody’s national job search; and I’m sorry if this sounds divisive but effective fisheries management is being progressively phased out because of it.
(Editor’s Note – On August 19, 2022, the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife posted the following https://dep.nj.gov/njfw/news-2022-08-19-marine-fisheries-council-seeking-applicants).