George “Gige” Darey, of Lenox, recently announced his retirement from the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board. He has served on that Board for 38 years and 35 of them as its Chairman.
The 88-year old Chairman stated that he had missed only 5 monthly meetings in 38 years, and he always felt that he couldn’t have had a more fun job. He enjoyed watching the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) grow with all the new staff over the years. He will now enjoy working with environmentalists and sportsmen closer to home.
He has been appointed to the Board by at least 7 governors and has served with 4 different DFW directors. He stated that the directors were all great people. He expressed his admiration that current Director of DFW Jack Buckley was working so well and so closely with his staff and on so many different projects. Darey is aware of all the things he has been able to accomplish as Chairman, and also some things that were not accomplished. But he believes that it is important to know when to walk away. Rest assured, I intend to do a future column or two on Gige and his remarkable career.
No one has yet been appointed by Governor Baker to replace him representing the Western District. At the December Board Meeting, Dr. Joseph Larson of Pelham was elected the new Chairman and Michael Roche of Orange was elected Vice Chair.
Dr. Larson, is the Board’s specialist in endangered species habitat. He serves as the Board’s liaison to MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from UMASS and a Ph.D. in zoology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He has held research appointments with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the University of Maryland. He is professor emeritus and former Chairman of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management and Director of the Environmental Institute at UMASS.
He has served as Executive Chairman of the National Wetlands Technical Council and Chairman of the U.S. National Ramsar Committee that represents non-governmental interests to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. He received the national Chevron Conservation Award in 1990. Internationally, he has been a member of diplomatic delegations to the Ramsar Convention and has lectured and conducted wetlands training seminars in India, China and Europe. He is a member of the Commission on Ecosystem Management of the World Conservation Union.
Dr. Larson has served on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions and the Massachusetts Audubon Society. He drafted original legislation to define wetlands in the Commonwealth and has served on all of the wetland regulation advisory committees convened by the Department of Environmental Protection. He was a member of the Secretary’s Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Committee during the original establishment of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. In 1997 the Massachusetts Wildlife Federation honored him as Conservationist of the Year.
Roche, Secretary of the Board, represents the Connecticut Valley Wildlife District. He is a graduate of Salem State College and holds a Master’s degrees in Administration and Organization from Endicott College.
He teaches social science at Mahar Regional High School as well as forestry and wildlife management electives in the science department. He serves as advisor to the Mahar Fish and Game Club, believed to be the oldest high school fish and game club in the Commonwealth. For four years he was the Regional Director for Ducks Unlimited in Massachusetts. Over the past twenty-five years, he has served as a volunteer hunter education instructor, a member of Massachusetts’ Project WILD advisory committee, and was a staff member and director of the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp.
He is an outdoor columnist for the Athol Daily News and has had free-lance work published in various periodicals. He is an active member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
The seven person Fisheries and Wildlife Board was created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1948 and is assigned the responsibility of supervision and control of the DFW. The Board’s mandate is to protect and manage the wildlife of the Commonwealth as an essential public natural resource for the use and enjoyment of all citizens who hunt, fish, trap, and enjoy nature study and observation. This includes all mammals, birds, and freshwater fish, plus insects, invertebrates and plants that are listed under state and federal regulations as rare, endangered, threatened, or of special concern – over 400 species in total.
State law requires that the Governor appoint one member from each of the five regions of the state, with one being experienced in farming. Of the two additional at-large members, one must be a wildlife biologist and the other must have expertise in endangered species conservation.
The Board Assures Professional Responsibility for the Wildlife Resource by:
· Establishing personnel policies that require persons appointed to positions in the DFW have appropriate professional training.
· Adopting policies and regulations that are based upon sound ecological science.
- Approving appointments of the members of the scientific Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee .
- Fostering research that obtains factual information and data as the science base for regulations and policies.
- Reviewing and approving land acquisitions though use of the Land Stamp Fund, Massachusetts Waterfowl Stamp fund, state bond issue funds, and other financial sources.
The Board fosters close working partnerships between the DFW and other state and federal agencies, private conservation organizations, sportsmen’s organizations, municipal conservation commissions, land trusts and private firms. It operates under multiple layers of public oversight – the Governor, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game and The USFWS on federally funded projects.