Wildlife commission discussed closing meeting

Members of the state Wildlife Resources Commission discussed closing committee meetings to the public because they did not like what a bowhunting group was saying about the meetings.

Commission chairman Wes Seegars said Tuesday that the commission has always been committed to openness. But members did not appreciate what the N.C. Bowhunters Association had told its members about a proposal to alter the rules of deer hunting season.

"Our concern has just always been disseminate the correct information," Seegars said. "We don't have a problem with anybody sitting in and being a part of it."

The commission regulates hunting and fishing. Seegars said the state has some 800,000 licensed sportsmen and sportswomen.

Committee meetings, Seegars said, allow an open exchange, and discussion at a meeting doesn't necessarily mean an idea will become a change to the rules.

"Committee meetings are where we thrash around a lot of ideas," Seegars said.

After members of one of the commission's committees discussed extending gun hunting season into what had traditionally been bow hunting season, bowhunters flooded the commission with comments.

Seegars said that episode prompted commisison members to discuss closing committee meetings off to invited guests only. The discussion died down, Seegars said.

We said, 'look even if we can close these things, is that in our best interest?' And we said, 'no,'" Seegars said. "The governor wants to open this stuff up and we completely agree with her."

Seegars was referring to a pledge from Gov. Beverly Perdue to keep meetings and records open to the public.

A commission staff member had previously written to the president of the bowhunters' group that the commission would make public only meetings that included a quorum of the full commission.

"The latest information that we have been given does tell us that we would have to have the meetings open," Seegars said. "I would tell you that some weeks ago that we had a different interpretation."

Seegars said the commission intends to publish on its Web site information about meetings including minutes. The commission intends to use e-mail to communicate with interested people.