Former Payson Man Tapped To Game And Fish Commission

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A man with Rim country ties and a fresh outlook on wildlife management is the newest member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

Bob Hernbrode, 61, will join four fellow commissioners for the first time when they gather June 24 and 25 in Payson.

Hernbrode grew up in the Rim country where his father was a career Arizona Game and Fish Department employee.

He came to Payson as a fourth-grader and remembers Julia Randall as a first-grade teacher.

"I didn't have her, but we all knew her," he said.

For the past 28 years, Hernbrode has worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife as the state's big-game supervisor.

While in Colorado, Hernbrode developed a reputation as a strong advocate of wildlife education and a man with a broader interest in wildlife than hunting and fishing.

In 1986, he started Colorado's Watchable Wildlife Program that is now in use in 39 states, but not Arizona.

In the nature-related program, people are encouraged to participate in outdoor activities that don't harm animals. Those can include hobbies like watching or feeding birds, wild animal photography or listening to elks bugling. Participants are encouraged to conserve native plants and animals in their natural habitats.

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In 1962, Bob Hernbrode was a senior at Payson High School.

Hernbrode's recent appointment to the commission by Gov. Janet Napolitano has drawn praise from environmental groups like the Sierra Club, but has received only lukewarm support from fishing and hunting groups.

Sandy Barr, conservation director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon chapter, lauds Hernbrode's selection to the commission.

"We are pleased Mr. Hernbrode is on the commission," she said. "He will be working for what's good for wildlife and he understands the role of the commission and the important public trust they have for all of Arizona's wildlife."

Hernbrode replaces a controversial commissioner, southern Arizona rancher Sue Chilton who was criticized by environmental groups for putting ranching interests ahead of wildlife.

"With Bob Hernbrode, we won't have a person who is always looking out for personal interests," Barr said.

Napolitano said Hernbrode was chosen because of his education, work in the Colorado wildlife management and experience with the Arizona Game and Fish Department in Southern Arizona.

Prior to graduating from Payson High School in 1962, he was a four-sport star, played in the band and served as student body president.

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While attending Payson High School, Bob Hernbrode played center and forward for the Longhorn basketball team.

"Some of my fondest memories of Payson are my high school years," he said. "Ted Pettet was one of my coaches."

Pettet remembers Hernbrode as a "tall gangly kid who turned into a really good basketball player."

His athletic and academic accomplishments at PHS earned him a scholarship to Phoenix College.

"That was my biggest adjustment -- being a small-town kid trying to get along in downtown Phoenix," he said.

After two years at PC, he transferred to the University of Arizona where he earned a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management.

The PHS alumnus was able to work his way through college by holding down wildland firefighter jobs during the summer months.

After graduation, Hernbrode accepted a job with the Arizona Game and Fish Department but that was cut short when Uncle Sam came calling.

"I got drafted after only about eight months on the job," Hernbrode said. "I served two years and went back to work in Arizona."

After eight years with AG&F, he took the job in Colorado.

Hernbrode said he has many goals for his five-year term with the commission. He wants to expand the department's education programs, increase communication with the public, and work on hunter and angler retention programs.

"I want future generations to have the same experiences with wildlife that I've had," Hernbrode said. "I think that's the role of the department. I think the public looks to the agency for that."

The meetings

The commission's meetings are open to the public and begin at 8 a.m. on both days at the Best Western Payson Inn.

The agenda will include briefings on the implementation of land and resource management projects on federal lands in Arizona and on the impact local government annexations are having on fish and wildlife.

The commission may also vote to draft a letter to President Bush and members of the Arizona congressional delegation expressing concerns the impact undocumented alien traffic is having on the state's fish and wildlife resources.

Other agenda items include setting some hunt seasons, including dove.

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