The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be on the hunt for a new executive director as the year comes to an end.
Nick Wiley, who has held the top staff position at the agency since 2009, has accepted the job of chief conservation officer for Ducks Unlimited, a Memphis, Tenn.-based nonprofit focused on conserving wetlands and habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Wiley is slated to start with Ducks Unlimited in January.
Wiley said in a news release that as he moves “on to new challenges,” the Florida commission “will continue to do great things for fish and wildlife conservation and the people of Florida.”
Wiley has been with the state since 1988, starting as a wildlife-resource biologist in Lakeland. He later headed the agency’s Alligator Management Program, Small Game Management Section, Bureau of Wildlife Management and the Division of Hunting and Game Management. He was named assistant executive director a year before moving into the top job.
“Nick has been an unstoppable force for Florida’s fish and wildlife resources for over 30 years,” Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski said in a prepared statement. “Working with him for 14 of those years, I’ve come to appreciate his natural ability to bring stakeholders and staff together to accomplish great deeds of conservation, all with an unwavering optimism and personal passion for the wildlife and habitats he works to sustain. Quite simply, Nick is a true champion of conservation.”
The commission, which meets next week in Gainesville, will have to determine how the replace Wiley, who earns $147,367 a year.
The commission deals with a wide range of wildlife, hunting and fishery issues. But it has particularly drawn attention during the past few years because of controversies about whether to allow hunting of black bears.
The state held a hunt in 2015 that resulted in 304 bears being killed, but the commission has not approved additional hunts. As part of a decision in April against holding a hunt, the commission wanted staff members to conclude work on 10-year bear management plan, which at the time was at least two years from completion.
Wiley’s departure comes as the commission also will select a new chairman.
Yablonski, a Gulf Power external affairs director and one-time policy director for former Gov. Jeb Bush, is leaving at the start of the year to become executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont.
Yablonski has been appointed five times by governors to the state commission since 2004. His current term expires in 2019.
Commissioner Aliese P. “Liesa” Priddy will take over as interim chair.