ON: It’s like Game and Fish Fund then?

Garber: Yes. If the Legislature chooses to appropriate only a
fifth of what’s available, they can do it. But they can’t use the
other four-fifths to build highways. It’s a big policy decision. I
don’t see that we contradicted ourselves with 3/16ths, but maybe we
weren’t clear enough. This is a big decision for the new
commissioner and the governor-elect. They’ll be the ones to decide
if the DNR champions this or not.

These kinds of remarks I’ve just made don’t endear me to the
more enthusiastic members of the hunting, fishing, and
environmental communities. I understand that. That comes with the
territory.

ON: Some have suggested that a DNR re-organization, and perhaps
the creation of a game and fish department, is needed. What do you
think?

Garber: First of all I think the idea was well-intentioned and
that is to put more emphasis I’m not sure what that means on
hunting and fishing and enforcement. So I take that suggestion as
being a well-intentioned suggestion. However, it’s very obvious to
me after four years here that the disciplines of the DNR are very
much intertwined. Example, if you don’t have clean water you don’t
have healthy fish. If you don’t have healthy forests, you don’t
have healthy deer populations. That’s just two examples.

It’s been very, very hard, but I think we’ve made substantial
progress in making these disciplines work together. We’ve put them
in buildings together, put them on teams together. We made leaders
who could make the teams work together, and they are much better
but it’s been an uphill battle. I think to take the fish, wildlife,
eco-services, and enforcement divisions and put them somewhere else
would set us back at least the four years that we’ve been working
toward interdisciplinary management.

Number two, while it’s easy to say you want to create a new
state department or whatever, understand that means a building,
computers, human resources personnel, cars and trucks, facilities
management, and more. That costs money. I’m not sure in a time of
shrinking government that we want to create more government.

So I think a much better way to do it much better and what I
hope the game and fish interests who proposed this will do, is to
take an issue-by-issue approach. What is the issue that you are
dissatisfied with and give it to the DNR and say “fix it.” To me,
that’s a much more efficient way to do business. Then hold the DNR
accountable. If they don’t do it, find somebody else who will do
it. I told the governor-elect that, and I don’t say it with any
selfishness or possessiveness. I don’t believe reorganization is a
good idea. This interdisciplinary thing can’t be over-emphasized.
It’s very, very important. You work much better with people if they
are in the same building and department with you.

ON: Were you comfortable with the balance of power between the
DNR and the Legislature?

Garber: Yes.

ON: Does the Legislature micro-manage the agency?

Garber: No. If the DNR commissioner and the governor allowed
them to, they would. But I’ve been very comfortable with the way
things went.

ON: Is there a need for a natural resources board?

Garber: To do what?

ON: Outdoor writer Dennis Anderson and others have suggested a
natural resources board of six to 10 people there are different
configurations that would be appointed by the governor and then
appoint the commissioner.

Garber: What would they do? What’s their authority?

ON: I guess it would be some sort of buffer between the
political process and the agency.

Garber: If they’re a board to make decisions for the DNR:
Worthless, gridlock, stupid. I don’t understand that at all. Then
don’t have a DNR. Have this, whatever it is. If they are an
advisory board that brings citizen input to the DNR, I can see a
value in that. Yet we have so many groups that come to us right
now, we hear from so many citizens, but if someone thought yet
another group could bring some guidance to the DNR, I don’t have a
problem with that. But don’t make them the decision makers. That
doesn’t work.

A good example of how it does work is the Game and Fish
Oversight Committee. They are champions for us if we can convince
them that what we are trying to do is right. That group reaches a
lot of people and they devote the time to find out what we’re doing
with the money. Yet they can’t say, you’ll do this and this,
because there are too many of them to do that. They serve a
valuable purpose, but we already have that. Another one? I don’t
understand that.

ON: Do you have any advice for the incoming administration
regarding the state budget shortfall?

Garber: There’s going to be very tough decisions to be made.
It’s going to take some real courage to make them. It is better to
be honest with your people. If they’re going to be cut, then tell
them.

There’s going to be a tremendous amount of political influence
when the interest groups go to the Legislature in response to the
proposed cuts from the DNR or the governor’s office. There’s going
to be an awful lot of disagreement about where the cuts ought to
come from. You’ll be questioned about why this and not that. Just
be ready for that.

ON: So it’s not a rosy prospect.

Garber: No, it’s not a rosy prospect, but it’s a reality. So the
job is to get it done. Pare down. There will be some functions I
don’t know what they are that will be discontinued, some functions
that will no longer be provided. But those who are left, hopefully,
will still be able to perform at a satisfactory level.

So the outlook for those who stay is that they should be
adequately funded to do what they are supposed to do. And for those
who don’t stay it’s not a bright outlook. Those are the tough
decisions yet to be made.

The governor-elect said and I believe he’s right this is an
opportunity to reorganize and seek efficiencies, and that’s true
and that’s good. That’s exciting for new leadership.

ON: We’re coming to the end of this interview. Is there anything
you’d like to talk about that we’ve missed?

Garber: I’m very pleased at the end of this administration. I
think we conducted ourselves the way that we hoped we would. I just
sent a message to all the employees reflecting on the last four
years and I got a lot of return e-mails from them. Most said they
liked the way I’d encouraged them to be open-minded and have the
courage of conviction. It’s hard to know what employees think, but
you get an indication from the way they respond to you face to
face. I saw a lot of enthusiasm and I think they liked the fact
that I took an interest in what they did.

I feel good after four years with DNR. This was a great
ride.

ON: Will you remain active in conservation and outdoor issues
when you leave the DNR?

Garber: One thing I would like is to be on the board of
directors for the Bear River Demonstration Forest. I’ve already
talked to Mike Carroll about that. I might also do volunteer work
for the International Wolf Center. Some things became interesting
far beyond the aspects of the job. I guess it depends on who asks
me to help. If they ask, I may be involved.

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