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Trentonian Dec. 25, 2005

Outdoors (by Rick Methot)

N.J. Fish and Wildlife Director quits

Martin J. McHugh, Director of the State Division of Fish and Wildlife since November, 2002, has broken camp, doused the fire and pulled up stakes for another state job starting next month.

Rumors regarding McHugh’s coming resignation swirled about recently, but “Marty” as known to his colleagues and the outdoor press, confirmed his resignation in a returned phone call to The Trentonian Friday afternoon.

In a statement to his co-workers McHugh said, “I have accepted a position with the Department’s Compliance and Enforcement Program. I will assume my new position on Jan. 3 and look forward to supporting conservation and environmental protection as part of Assistant Commissioner Wolf Skacel’s Team.”

McHugh cited his brief director highlights to include two successful bear hunts, a completed Wildlife Action Plan, a Farm Bill program to encourage private landowners to manage property to enhance wildlife habitat, protection for the Delaware estuary and new electronic licensing and data management programs.

McHugh concluded by saying he is “grateful for having had the opportunity to serve the sportsmen and women and all citizens who care about our state’s fish and wildlife.”

In a brief phone conversation Friday afternoon, McHugh had a message for outdoor writers saying, “we need you, don’t stop.”

Marty McHugh is a nice guy who actually hunts and fishes. His agenda, however, didn’t sit well with some powers that be from what we hear.

We’ll see who gets the job now. Assistant Director Dave Chanda, who many thought should have had the job in the first place, is a definite possibility, but politics intervened. Chanda said via phone Friday afternoon that he would like the job, but declined further comment other than off the record to only say that the decision is up to a Council recommendation and approval by the governor. It should be said, however, that Chanda is not a lawyer and his entire career has been spent in wildlife management as a profession.

There are, of course, all kinds of stories behind McHugh’s leaving Fish and Wildlife. From this end, most are speculative and second hand. One scenario has it that the state Fish and Game Council was displeased with the Director’s choice of financial watchdog, after one who was a pitbull in guarding sportsmen’s money had left. The new guy was the Commissioner’s choice as well as McHugh’s and raiding fish and game funds was sort of a wink of the eye. Again that’s the scuttlebutt.

Others say McHugh, a lawyer without a wildlife biologist background was in over his head in the job. DEC Commissioner Bradley Campbell (McHugh’s boss) to give credit where it is due, has often been lambasted by sportsmen, but allowed the 2005 bear hunt.

McHugh replaced Bob McDowell who retired after 36 years with the Division. The personable McHugh worked 18 years in public service and is a former state deputy attorney general and litigated contaminated site cleanup cases. He emphatically pointed out that his time spent with the outdoorsmen and women of the state was most enjoyable and rewarding. He is an avid hunter and fisherman. We wish him well. The guy returns phone calls, a big plus in our book for a state worker.

RECORD CRAPPIE

Last month’s catch of a 2-pound, 14-oz. white crappie is a state record. Taken from Mill Pond in Clarksboro on a chartreuse jig, the fish was 17 and ¾ inches long with a 15-inch girth.

DEER CLASSIC

Big deer, record racks. That’s the theme of the annual Garden State Deer Classic set for Jan. 12-15 at the seasonal outdoor show in Edison. Check www.njfishandwildlife.com for details.

ICE NOT NICE

This is the time of year ice fishermen get the unholy urge to sit over a hole in the water and try to catch fish. They’re nuts of course, but it can be fun with the right gear and the right ice. Now is not yet the time in our neck of the woods. There were ice anglers out on Lake Champlain when I visited my folks in Burlington, Vt. last week, but that was cove ice. An e-mail from a Pennsy friend says there is 5 inches of ice on the local pond, but not here with a warming trend this weekend it’s advised to wait for a long cold snap before hauling your sled out to a hole.

Merry Christmas today and Happy Hanukkah tomorrow to all.

Rick Methot is the outdoor columnist for The Trentonian. Contact him at [email protected] or fax info to (609) 737-9082
 
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