Candid Conversation: Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commissioner Rich StormPosted on Jan 4, 2023
Candid Conversation presents a discussion about the topical issues related to KFB priorities, the agricultural industry, and rural communities, in a question-and-answer format. In this column, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) Commissioner Rich Storm discusses the mission of the department and how it can be of assistance to more than just those who like to hunt and fish.
Could you tell our audience a little about yourself and how you came to be at KDFWR?
I am a Nicholas County native and a third-generation farmer. When it comes to the outdoors, I'm an avid hunter but also enjoy fishing, wildlife watching, and recreational shooting. Those activities and my interest in the outdoors have been part of my life from a young age.
As for my connection to the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, my father served on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission. I was appointed to the Commission in August 2016 as the 8th District representative, later served as Commission chair, and now serve as Commissioner of the department.
What are some of the more well-known resources available to the public through the department?
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife directly serves about 1.5 million Kentuckians and tens of thousands of visitors who hunt, fish, trap, boat or target shoot at a public shooting range.
The Fishing In Neighborhoods (FINs) program currently includes 45 lakes, each in close proximity to more heavily populated areas. The FINs lakes are regularly stocked with catfish in the warmer months and rainbow trout in the cooler months. In addition, the sunfish and bass populations are regularly surveyed to ensure natural reproduction is meeting the needs of anglers. Stocking of sunfish and/or largemouth bass occurs if needed.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife also manages about 90 different wildlife management areas spanning more than 500,000 acres and provides public recreational access on about 1.5 million acres.
Kentucky is nationally recognized for the quality of its deer herd and the historic restoration of elk in eastern Kentucky. Thanks to great vision and great partners, the commonwealth is currently home to the largest elk herd east of the Rocky Mountains.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officers enforce hunting, fishing, and boating laws. Department staff build and maintain public boat ramps, shooting ranges, bank fishing access areas, and facilities.
What are some things KDFWR does that are lesser known?
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife works to conserve nearly 1,000 species of fish and wildlife, the majority of which aren’t hunted, fished, or trapped. Kentucky Wild is a relatively new program of ours that is membership-based and supports vulnerable wildlife facing threats in the commonwealth.
The department founded the Center for Mollusk Conservation, and the facility is world-renowned for restoring and recovering some of the rarest mussels on earth. Our biologists study other threatened and endangered species. They live-capture and leg-band wood ducks and wild turkeys, and use the data to monitor populations and in turn help enhance opportunities for Kentucky hunters.
The department also restores streams and wetlands on private and public lands using special grants, and it provides wildlife habitat improvement assistance to private landowners, which is an important service when you consider that more than 90 percent of land in Kentucky is privately owned.
One way the department improves habitat on public lands is through prescribed fire.
Each year, the department stocks about 5 million fish in Kentucky’s public waterways, many raised at our fish hatcheries near Frankfort and Morehead.
The department also operates three conservation camps and teaches conservation education to thousands of students in our schools. As part of that drive to educate about Kentucky’s fish and wildlife resources, the department operates the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort. We encourage everybody to visit when it reopens for the season next spring.
The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website (fw.ky.gov) is a tremendous source of information, including resources for those interested in learning to hunt and fish, either on their own or through our "Hook and Cook" or "Field to Fork" programs. An affordable license structure as well as free hunting and fishing days encourage residents and non-residents alike to participate in these activities.
What is the major connection between farms and KDFWR?
Wildlife-friendly properties – with fields and forested areas – tend to hold more animals and are beneficial to livestock and wildlife. As I mentioned previously, wildlife habitat improvement assistance is available to landowners. Also, some may not know that if you're a Kentucky resident landowner, you, your spouse, and dependent children can hunt and fish for free on property that you own.
If there is one thing you’d like the public to know about the department what would that be?
There are fish and wildlife resources in every county. The department has a talented staff that works in the woods and on the water, to conserve, enhance and protect the resources and serve their communities. We're extremely appreciative of our many partners and everyone who supports conservation. You invest in conservation every time you buy a hunting or fishing license, join Kentucky Wild, buy a firearm, ammunition, or fishing or archery equipment, register a boat or buy fuel for that boat. We are extremely grateful of everyone who supports the department's efforts.
Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) has a long history of supporting the Kentucky Hunger Initiative and Hunters for the Hungry by way of the KFB Clays for a Cause event. How important are relationships like that and the one KFB enjoys with KDFWR when it comes to supporting such causes?
Extremely important. When organizations work together, they can make a difference. We’re thankful for our many partners who help the department fulfill its mission. These partnerships are key to conservation efforts and the future of outdoor recreation not only in Kentucky but nationwide.