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Posted on Sat, Aug. 30, 2003

OUTDOORS: Game and Fish appointee ruffles feathers
Local hunting activist questions governor's appointment to Advisory Board
By Brad Dokken
Herald Staff Writer

A Grand Forks hunting activist says he is planning to challenge the appointment of a local representative to the citizens panel that deals with North Dakota game and fish issues.

John French said he believes the nomination process was flawed and that Gov. John Hoeven is trying to "usurp" the authority of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Last fall, Hoeven selected Dan Mikkelson of Grand Forks to serve as the District 4 adviser to the Game and Fish Advisory Board, a citizens panel that serves as a liaison between the Game and Fish Department and the public. There are eight Advisory Board members, each representing a multicounty part of the state. The governor appoints the advisers to four-year terms. District 4 covers Grand Forks, Nelson, Pembina and Walsh counties.

According to state statute, four members of the panel must be "bona fide" farmers or ranchers, and four must be sportsmen, such as hunters or anglers. The governor then solicits nominees from agricultural organizations for the farmer/rancher positions, and from wildlife clubs or conservation groups for the four sportsmen advisers.

Former president of the Grand Forks County Wildlife Federation, French has been an outspoken critic of the governor's outdoors policies. His challenge of Mikkelson's appointment is just the latest example.

DU nomination: Mikkelson, who replaced Rich Price of Tolna, N.D., as the local board representative, received his nomination from Mike Compton, secretary of the Grand Forks chapter of Ducks Unlimited. In a nomination letter to the governor's office dated Oct. 22, 2002, Compton wrote, "On behalf of our local Ducks Unlimited chapter, I would like to forward the name of Dan Mikkelson for your consideration."

That's where the problem arises. As part of DU's policy, officials say, the organization steers clear of endorsing political candidates, nominees or appointments.

"In this case, there was no official endorsement by DU of anyone," said Jeff Nelson, director of operations for the Great Plains Region of DU in Bismarck. "Being we don't get involved, we're not going to wade into this, other than to remind our committees that they shouldn't be endorsing candidates."

Compton said he never would have submitted the nomination if he'd known about DU's policy.

"It was more a reference for Dan that he would be a good representative," Compton said of Mikkelson. "He needed some references, and I've hunted with him and known him for more than 25 years."

Unknown commodity: Mikkelson's appointment came as a surprise to many local hunters and anglers, including French, because the president of Fritz Building Co. in Grand Forks was relatively unknown in outdoors circles. The Grand Forks County Wildlife Federation had nominated Scott Lindgren for the position. Both Lindgren and French played active roles in lobbying for restrictions on nonresident hunters during the last legislative session.

Mikkelson, meanwhile, had contributed $350 to Hoeven's election campaign Sept. 26, 2000, according to a year-end disclosure report available over the Internet. Contacted Friday at his lake cabin near Bemidji, Mikkelson said he was surprised by the challenge to his appointment.

"I'm just there to help the governor, and I have an interest in Game and Fish," Mikkelson said. "It's not a paid position; it's just an appointment. If John French wants my job, he can have it, although I doubt the governor would appoint him to it. I doubt John cares to hear all sides of the issue. He's pretty much ingrained in his own agenda."

While he frequently has opposed Hoeven's stand on nonresident hunting issues, French says he doesn't have a problem with Mikkelson; nor does he want the job. French said he didn't challenge the appointment before because he learned only Friday of DU's hands-off endorsement policy.

"I'm pursuing it because the governor, for almost three years now, has usurped the authority of the Game and Fish Department and abused the statute regarding Game and Fish Advisory Board members for his political cronies and campaign contributors," French said. "It's a slap in the face for North Dakota sportsmen, and somebody has to call (Hoeven) on it.

"Shame on him for perverting North Dakota's Game and Fish Advisory Board statute to the detriment of resident sportsmen."

Keeping a distance: Spokesmen for the governor's office had little to say about Mikkelson's appointment, other than they had received the nomination from DU, and that they don't get involved with the internal policies of any nominating group before soliciting Advisory Board candidates.

"We can't get involved in DU's politics," Ron Raushenberger, Hoeven's policy adviser, said. "That's certainly not in our bounds, so the only statement out of this office, is that we received a letter of recommendation" for Mikkelson.

Nor was it the only letter they received from DU. Raushenberger furnished the Herald with a copy of a letter dated Sept. 16, 2002, in which Conrad Hillman, DU's regional director for gift planning, nominated Bismarck dentist Terry Deeter as the board representative for that part of the state. While the letter was made on official DU letterhead, Hillman didn't mention the organization in his nomination. Hoeven ultimately selected Dr. Ray Gruby of Bismarck as District 7 adviser.

French said he's not sure how he will proceed in challenging the governor's appointment of Mikkelson but said he probably will start with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's office and see what happens next.

"Either we have an Advisory Board that has proper representation, or let's scrap the whole thing," French said.
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The advisory board should be beyond reproach. That is not the case. Thanks John, we need to keep an eye on this.
 

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AMEN !!! - also check on the legality of open meetings they never have :******: & they are then USED to make it Look Like they represent Us ??? :roll: :******:
 
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