- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

As concerns an investigation into questionable expenditures by four officials of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, it seems to prove how totally arrogant and carefree some government employees are about spending taxpayers’ money — our dollars, not theirs.

In this case, no one argues that $12,000 was recently spent to outfit the four with clothing and gear for an African safari, and no one disputes that the taxpayers who received a financial slap in the face were the hunters, anglers and boaters of Virginia. They are the taxpayers who, through license purchases, supply most of the state’s Game and Inland Fisheries budget.

The only question that remains to be settled is, was a 17-day expedition to Zimbabwe, ostensibly to focus on global game management and conservation, really necessary.

Right from the start, we can tell you that Virginia, as well as the other 49 states in our land, knows twice as much about game management and conservation that Zimbabwe will ever know. So that excuse doesn’t wash.

Not only that, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. withdrew state support for the trip before it was ever taken. End of story. If the boss says, “Don’t go,” you don’t go. In other words, the outing turned into a vacation safari on which a white rhino and nyala and impala antelopes were shot, as well as a warthog and a blue wildebeest.

Incidentally, the air travel wasn’t paid for with game and fish department money. It was privately financed by VDGIF chairman Daniel A Hoffler, a wealthy Tidewater developer and 2002 political appointee of Gov. Mark Warner.

The whole thing reeks of a “Good Ol’ Boy” network doing business without regard for the good of the people who pay the bills.

We’ll wait and see if the state auditor finds fault with the $12,000 expenditure — if he does, charges should be brought — or if he says that it was just a little misunderstanding but no harm was done. Either way, the state’s hunters, anglers and boaters should scratch their heads in disbelief because of the sheer gall of it all.

Feeding the hungry — Maryland Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH) is on track to set a record for donated venison this season. The program has become so popular with hunters that deer donations are outpacing the financial support the organization raises to cover the meat processing and packaging costs.

“This year we gave each participating butcher a target number of deer to process based on the amount of financial support we hoped to raise,” said Maryland FHFH coordinator Josh Wilson. “Many locations have reached their limit and are waiting to see if we can raise additional funds so they can process more donated deer before the season ends.”

Without additional financial support, these deer will be turned away. FHFH representatives indicate that another $20,000 would enable the processing of donated deer well into this month, a time of year when many soup kitchens and shelters depend heavily on donated food items.

Last year FHFH paid for the processing and packaging of more than 60 tons of donated venison in Maryland, resulting in the distribution of more than 480,000 meals to the needy. For more information, visit www.fhfh.org or call 866/438-3434. Financial contributions can be sent to MD FHFH, 216 N. Cleveland Ave., Hagerstown, Md. 21740. Contributions are tax deductible.

Maryland wildlife artists needed — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Friends of Patuxent invite Maryland artists only to submit entries for the state’s annual Migratory Game Bird Stamp Design Contest, better known as the Maryland Duck Stamp Contest.

The judging of entries will be held in conjunction with the 16th annual Patuxent Wildlife Art Show on Saturday, April2, at noon in the auditorium of the Patuxent National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel. All artwork submitted for this contest must be received no later than 4p.m., March23.

Proceeds from the sale of the stamps help fund waterfowl and migratory game bird enhancement projects as well as research. The $9 stamp can be purchased by anyone and is required of all waterfowl hunters in the state.

The public is invited to attend the judging process, and admission is free. For contest rules and more information, visit DNR online at www.dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/duckstamp or call Doug Wigfield, 410/543-6595, e-mail dwigfield2@dnr.state.md.us.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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