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The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources traces its origin to 1897 legislation calling for the appointment of a game and fish warden and prescribing his duties. Governor MacCorkle appointed Capt. E. F. Smith of Hinton as the first state game and fish warden.

The 1909 legislature changed the title to chief forest, game, and fish warden, while increasing the responsibilities of the position. In 1921, realizing the need for an expanded conservation program, the legislature created the Game and Fish Commission. The three commissioners were appointed by the governor, with G. O. Young of Buckhannon as the first chairman. The commissioners were given the authority to appoint the chief game protector and district deputies. A. B. Brooks was appointed as first chief game protector. However, the responsibilities of the forestry division were taken away from the Game and Fish Commission. In 1929, the legislature added forestry back to the agency, creating the West Virginia Game, Fish, and Forestry Commission.

Four years later in 1933, when Congress established the Civilian Conservation Corps, Governor Kump requested and the legislature passed legislation establishing the Conservation Commission of West Virginia. The governor was given the authority to appoint a director and six advisory commissioners. H. W. Shawhan was appointed as the first director of conservation.

In 1959, Warden M. Lane, director of conservation, outlined a proposal for reorganization of the Conservation Commission to correct an overlapping of duties. Two years later at the urging of Lane and with the blessing of Governor Barron, the state legislature established the Department of Natural Resources, with Lane as director, effective July 1, 1961. The Department of Natural Resources would consist of five divisions, including Parks, Forestry, Game and Fish, Land Reclamation, and Water.

In 1985, the legislature transferred the Division of Forestry from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture. The Division of Parks was transferred from Natural Resources to a newly created Department of Commerce, which later became the Department of Commerce, Labor, and Environmental Resources. The state parks unit later became the Division of Tourism and Parks. Forestry later became a free-standing division under Commerce. On January 1, 1990, the Department of Natural Resources name was changed to the Division of Natural Resources under the Department of Commerce, Labor, and Environmental Resources. In 1995, Parks was returned to Natural Resources from the Division of Tourism. In 1999, further changes were made, with the Division of Natural Resources to be administered under the Bureau of Commerce. In 2005, another reorganization of state government placed the Division of Natural Resources under the newly formed Department of Commerce.

The purposes of the Division of Natural Resources are to conserve and manage wildlife for intrinsic, recreational, and economic benefits; to promote conservation by preserving natural areas of exceptional scenic, scientific, cultural, archeological, or historic significance; to provide outdoor recreation; and to promote travel and tourism. The agency regulates hunting and fishing; manages wildlife diversity preservation and study; enforces wildlife and boating laws; operates state parks; oversees wildlife management and recreation areas; and holds title to public lands in the state and to the beds of rivers, creeks, and streams.

Frank Jezioro is the director of the Division of Natural Resources. There are approximately 825 permanent employees, serving in the law enforcement, parks and recreation, public information, real estate management, and wildlife resources sections, plus executive administrative staff.

This Article was written by Jack I. Cromer

Last Revised on October 21, 2010

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Cite This Article

Cromer, Jack I. "Division of Natural Resources." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 21 October 2010. Web. 20 October 2014.

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