CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State wildlife officials say they don't expect to take a great deal of flak during 12 mid-March meetings with hunters and anglers.
The meetings, which Division of Natural Resources administrators call "sectional meetings," give sportsmen a chance to register opinions on proposed changes to hunting and fishing regulations. Paul Johansen, the DNR's assistant wildlife chief, expects the March 18-19 gatherings to be largely free of controversy.
"Our sectional meetings have been relatively quiet for the past few years, and we figure these will be, too," Johansen said.
Johansen's optimism stems from the knowledge that the agency doesn't plan to make any earth-shaking changes in the 2013 hunting regulations for antlerless deer or black bear.
"That's not to say there won't be any changes at all," Johansen said. "The antlerless-deer regulations may be slightly more liberal than in previous years, and there may be some significant liberalization of existing bear regulations.
"But there's nothing in our proposals that we think would cause sportsmen to get all up in arms."
DNR biologists will reveal the agency's proposals at the Feb. 24 meeting of the West Virginia Natural Resources Commission, the seven-man panel that sets the state's hunting- and fishing-season regulations.
Johansen said the proposals are currently in draft form and must be vetted by Wildlife Resources Section chief Curtis Taylor and DNR director Frank Jezioro ahead of the meeting.
"At the meeting, the commissioners will listen to our proposals and ask any questions they consider pertinent," Johansen said. "The proposals are then taken before the sportsmen at the sectional meetings. We ask the sportsmen to fill out a questionnaire asking them whether they support or oppose each proposed change.
"We also do our best to accurately record the verbal comments sportsmen make at the meetings. As soon as the meetings are over, we compile the results and send a report to members of the commission, who definitely take public input into account in their final decisions."
Commission members usually vote on the state's antlerless-deer and bear-hunting regulations at the second quarterly meeting in late April or early May.
Sectional meeting schedule
The Division of Natural Resources' annual sectional meetings will be held March 18 and 19 at the following sites. All meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m.: