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  1. Florida Politics

FWC chairman who cast deciding vote to delay bear hunt is leaving

Utility company lobbyist was first appointed to wildlife board by Jeb Bush

Brian Yablonski, who cast the deciding vote last year to delay any further Florida bear hunts until 2019, is leaving the Florida Fish and WildliFe Conservation Commission after 14 years.

His departure in January will make the acting chairperson Commissioner Liesa Priddy, an Immokalee cattle rancher who voted in favor of proceeding with a second bear hunt. In fact, during the highly controversial first bear hunt in 2015 she bought a bear hunting license, although she said she did not use it.

Yablonski, a Tallahassee resident who currently serves as the commission’s chairman, is moving to Montana to take a job as executive director of the Bozeman-based Property and Environment Research Center, a national conservation research group that focuses on property rights and market-driven solutions. Yablonski has served as an adjunct fellow of PERC since 2003. His current job is as external affairs director for Gulf Power Company.

Yablonski graduated from Wake Forest University and the University of Miami School of Law. He served as deputy chief of staff and as policy director from 1999-2003 to Gov. Jeb Bush, with whom he had co-written a book called Profiles in Character. In 2004 Bush appointed him to the wildlife commission. He was subsequently reappointed by Charlie Crist and Rick Scott. His current term expires in January, which is when he will leave for Montana.

While Yablonski was named Florida’s Wildlife Conservationist of the Year by the Florida Wildlife Federation in 2009, he did not always hue to the standard views on dealing with wildlife issues. In 2012, during a discussion of state payments for the trappers dealing with nuisance alligator complaints, Yablonski said the government should get out of the trapping business and leave it for private industry. After all, he said. when faced with intrusions by “vicious cockroaches and ants,” he doesn’t call a state hotline for a free removal service. He calls, and pays for, the services of an exterminator. One of his fellow commissioners told him that wasn’t a good comparison, because, “unlike roaches, gators do eat people. You can’t just step on them.”

The seven wildlife commissioners are appointed by the governor. They receive no salary, but their expenses are covered by the state’s taxpayers as they travel to five meetings a year held in various venues around the state.