Last modified: Monday, September 16, 2013

A brief history of the Utah Fish & Game

By Edwin V. Rawley and LeeAnn Rawley

Written August 1, 1967

Father Escalante

The first information concerning wildlife in Utah was recorded in September and October of 1776 when Father Escalante and his party visited the territory. According to the diary kept on that trip, there were no deer present and wildlife in general was quite scarce. Several times on their trip food ran short and it was necessary for the party to kill a number of their horses in order to survive.

Beaver trappers

The presence of beaver in Utah brought the early trappers to the region during the period 1825 through 1834. Wildlife was still scarce, but there were scattered reports of elk, antelope, buffalo, and a few deer in the northern sections of the state. By 1845 Utah was well known to travelers along the emigrant trail, but it was not considered as a place to stay.

Mormon pioneers

Settlement of the Territory of Deseret began with the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Big game as it had been for the past 100 years, was still scarce and the pioneers suffered acute food shortages during their first winter in Utah.

Following the cricket plague in 1848, food was even more scarce for the pioneers. In Bancroft's History of Utah, he stated that after the plague, the early Mormons lived principally on roots and thistles, but no mention was made of game. The settlers were concerned about the game shortage and in 1848, Brigham Young provided for the planting of California quail in Utah. In 1849, Peter Madsen took flax seed to Utah Lake where he grew flax and wove it into line for fishing and the people began to fish for much of their food.

As more people flocked to the Intermountain West, it became evident that something would have to be done to plant and conserve the wildlife and food resources for them.

Utah government

Politically, Utah has had three different governments. The first was the Provisional Government.

In March, 1849, a convention was held in Great Salt Lake City, at which a constitution was formed for the government of what was then called "Upper California." It covered the territory lying between Mexico on the south, Oregon on the north, the Rockies on the east and the Sierras on the west. The governor was Brigham Young. Utah was then known as the State of Deseret.

The second political government was the territorial government. Utah was organized into a territory in September, 1850. Brigham Young was the first territorial governor.

The third political government in Utah was State Government. In 1896, Utah became the forty-fifth state in the Union of States. The first State Governor was Heber M. Wells.

No wildlife protection

The Provisional Government constitution of 1849 made no provisions for the protection of wildlife in what is now known as Utah.

The first annual session of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah convened at Great Salt Lake City on September 22, 1851.

In an act creating a territorial and county revenue, provisions were made for predator control. Section 10 of said act reads as follows:

"Sec. 1 0. The county court, in each county is hereby authorized to regulate all bounties on wolf and fox pates. Approved February 4,1852."

Protection for fish

The first protective measure enacted for fish and game occurred in 1853 when the Legislative Assembly passed the following act to protect the fish of Utah:

"AN ACT to prevent the needles s destruction of Fish. Be it enacted by the Governor and Legislative Assembly of the territory of Utah: that the county courts of the several counties are hereby authorized to have jurisdiction of the fisheries, in their respective counties, and are required, upon the application of the citizens, to institute such regulations as in their judgement will successfully prevent the needless destruction of fish. Approved January 13,1853."

The act was repealed by the Legislative Assembly of 1862 when more specific restrictions were enacted regarding the taking of fish.

County fish commissioners

The Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah at its twenty-first session in 1874 made provisions for the first appointment of personnel for the administration of fish laws. Section 14 of Chapter XX, An Act For the Protection of Fowl and Fish, reads as follows:

"The Selectmen of each county are hereby constituted Fish Commissioners for their respective counties I whose duty it shall be to see that the provisions of this act are carried out, and shall make reports to the Legislature during the first week of its regular sessions, of their doings with such suggestions or recommendations as to them may seem proper."

Protection for birds

This same act provided for the protection of game birds and song birds. The portion dealing with game birds stated that "it shall not be lawful to kill or destroy quails, nor any kind of wild fowls or their progeny that have been or may be imported into the Territory, for the term of five years from the passage of this act."

This would indicate that although there was no formal fish and game administration, some game bird introductions such as the release of California quail by Brigham Young in 1848, were being made by someone during this period.

Seasons established

The compiled laws of the Territory of Utah for 1876 established seasons for the taking of game birds and big game animals. The birds covered were quail, partridges, grouse and wild ducks. July through December was open season on elk, deer, mountain sheep and antelope.

Joseph L. Barfoot, territorial fish commissioner

The twenty-fifth session of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah in 1882 provided funds in the amount of $200.00, "to Joseph L. Barfoot for services as Fish Commissioner for the Utah Territory." They also provided $600.00 "For expenses incidental to the distribution, within this Territory, of fish eggs and small fry, to be drawn and expended, one half each year by Professor Joseph L. Barfoot."

County fish and game commissioners

The county fish and game commissioner system continued. Section 5 of Chapter XXXVII of the laws of the territory of Utah for 1888 says,

"The county court of each county of this territory shall appoint a fish and game commissioner, whose term of office shall be for two years and until his successor is appointed and qualified; said commissioner shall, before entering on the duties of his office, take and subscribe to an oath of office and give a bond in the penal sum of one thousand dollars for the faithful performance of his duty, said bond to be filed with the probate judge. The commissioner shall receive such compensation as shall be determined by the county court, to be paid out of the county treasury, and shall perform his duties under the direction of the county court. "It shall be the duty of the commissioner to see that all laws of this territory for the protection of fish and game are faithfully enforced, and shall report his doings to the county court quarterly. All fines and forfeitures for violation of the provisions of this act shall be paid into the county treasury of the county wherein the offense shall have been committed."

Territorial fish and game commissioner

The twenty-eighth Legislative Assembly of 1888 provided $500.00 "to A. Milton Musser, for services acting as fish commissioner to December 31, 1887."

In 1890, the twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah provided:

"That the Governor of the Territory shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council appoint a territorial fish and game commissioner who shall be a resident citizen of this Territory, whose term of office shall be four years and until his successor is appointed and qualified: Provided, that when a vacancy occurs in the office of said commissioner and the Legislative Council is not in session the governor shall have power to fill such vacancy.

"The said territorial commissioner shall receive an annual salary of five hundred dollars. He shall before entering upon the duties of his office, take and subscribe to an oath of office and give a bond in the penal sum of five thousand dollars for the faithful performance of his duties. Such bond shall be approved by and filed with the secretary of the Territory.

"The territorial commissioner shall have control and supervision of the public waters for the collection, propagation, culture and distribution of fish in Utah Territory and shall distribute all fish, fish fry and spawn coming into his hands, fairly and equitably among the several counties or otherwise as the said commissioner and the county commissioners may determine. He shall have full control of all property of the Territory obtained or held for the purpose contemplated by this act.

"He shall receive all fish, fish fry and spawn donated to this Territory from any source, whatever and also all fish, fish fry and spawn that may be purchased by this Territory.

"He may establish hatching boxes for the preservation and hatching of spawn and in the most economical and practical manner procure and distribute fish and fish fry to the public waters of this Territory. He shall make a detailed statement or report of his official transactions, including expenditures and the purpose for which the same were made, also the number and kinds of fish distributed and the locality and names of the streams, ponds or lakes where the same have been placed and submit such report to the Legislature during the first week of the regular session."

A. Milton Musser

A sum of $700.00 was provided to A. Milton Musser for services acting as fish commissioner for Utah Territory for 1888 and 1889.

The thirtieth session of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah in 1892 provided $1,000.00 to A. M. Musser for services acting as Fish Commissioner for Utah for 1890 and 1891.

This is evidence that A. Milton Musser was the first official administrator of fish and game in Utah under the provisions of the laws of the Territory of Utah passed at the twenty-ninth session of the Legislative Assembly on March 11, 1890.

Previously, evidence was given showing the appointment of an acting fish commissioner in 1882. With the lack of further evidence, it is assumed that the first acting commissioner was appointed at the same time that provisions were made for county fish commissioners by the Legislative Assembly of 1874.


At the time of Statehood in 1896, the first legislature of Utah met and a Committee of Fish and Game was set up. The committee consisted of J. T. Thome, S. W. Morrison, George Beard, and A. O. Smoot. They decided that it was of the utmost importance that the fish and game of the state be given all the protection possible through just laws. They stated: "The laws now in force (territorial laws) are fairly good, but are constantly violated. The citizens must be made to realize the importance of the fish and game. " It was recommended that the territorial law be amended to prevent exportation of game and fish outside of the state.

With the need for a department dealing with fish and game determined, the early legislators went about making the necessary provisions. The Constitution of the State of Utah set up this department at the Constitutional Convention in January, February, March, and April, 1896.

State fish and game warden

The act was approved April 5, 1896 and took effect at that time. The Act provided for a State Fish and Game Warden, who was appointed by the Governor with the approval of the Senate. He served a term of two years, except his first term which was three years. The Constitution stipulates that the warden had to be a resident of the State. The governor was also given the power to remove the State Warden at his pleasure. The State Warden received an annual salary of $500.00. He took an oath of office and gave a bond of $3,000.00 for the faithful performance of his duty. The warden was given control and supervision of all waters in the state for the culture and distribution of all fish. He was given control of all property in the state which dealt with fish or game. He was instructed to make a detailed report of all his official transactions. He was to submit this report to the Legislature during the first week of its ensuing regular session.

County fish and game wardens

Sections 5 through 8 of the Act provided for the enforcement of fish and game laws by county fish and game wardens. The sections read as follows:

"Sec. 5. At their first session after the passage of this act the county commissioners of each county of the State shall appoint a county fish and game warden whose term of office shall be two years and until his successor shall be appointed and qualified. Said county warden shall, before entering upon the duties of his office, take and subscribe to an oath of office and give a bond in the penal sum of one thousand ($1000) dollars for the faithful performance of his duty; said bond shall be approved by the county commissioners and filed in the office of the county clerk. The county warden shall receive adequate compensation for his services to be paid by the county commissioners out of the county treasury and shall perform his duties under the direction of the State Fish and Game Warden.

"Sec. 6. It shall be the duty of the county warden to see that all laws of the State for the protection of fish and game are faithfully enforced in their respective counties, and for this purpose they are hereby given the same authority exercised by sheriffs and constables. It shall be the duty of the county warden to report his official acts to the county commissioners of his county annually.

"Sec .7. The said county wardens, by authority of the State warden, may take or cause to be taken from the public waters within their respective counties, at any time or in any manner, any kind of fish for the purpose of inspection or propagation. The county wardens shall make detailed reports of their official doings to the State warden during the first week in December of each year "Sec. 8. It shall be the duty of the county warden to take or cause to be taken in the best practical manner any imported fish, mountain trout, bass or herring found in pools or other places in which the receding waters of the rivers, streams, lakes, canals or other water-ways have left them, and which are likely to become dry, and to carefully put the live fish thus taken into main bodies of water, and to make the best disposition of the dead fish in the interest of the county treasury."

John Sharp

The first State Fish and Game Warden in 1896 following Statehood was John Sharp. He was given $500 to stock the lakes and streams of Utah with black bass from Utah Lake. Mr. Sharp had the cooperation of the local railroads, Oregon Short Line and Rio Grande Western. They furnished cars and free transportation for aiding the state in distribution of the black bass. Mr. Sharp stated in his biennial report of 1897-1898 that the department was also grateful to the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries for aiding the state by introducing the largemouth black bass to Utah.

John Sharp had all the responsibility of the Fish and Game Department on his shoulders. He felt that the people should have the things that they wanted and he was willing to serve them. However, he also felt that those who break the laws should be punished. The people were used to getting away with things because the territorial laws concerning the fish and game had not been enforced, and the people questioned the right of the state to set up laws regulating the game and fish. Any doubt that may have existed was conclusively settled by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Edgar W. Green, in error, vs. the State of Connecticut (March 2, 1896). In this case, the court said that the ownership of wild animals is in the state and the state should regulate them for the common benefit of the people. John Sharp wanted to do all he could for the benefit of the people and he remained at the head of the Department from 1897 to 1906.

First fish hatchery

In 1898, John Sharp recommended that the Department get Salt Lake City to donate the site on the southeast corner of Liberty Park for a fish hatchery. The next year, the State Legislature changed the name of the warden to the State Fish and Game Commissioner and Commissioner of Hatcheries, and provided for the building of a state hatchery. A site was selected in Salt Lake County near Murray ("The Spring Runs") and the land was purchased for $1,000. The hatchery was built by A. J. Gaumer for $922 and the hatchery formally opened on December 30, 1899.

At the close of Mr. Sharp's time as Commissioner (1906), he reported that the fish situation in the state had greatly improved, but he could not say the same for the game. The game situation seemed to have been neglected and it remained much the same as it had been earlier.

H. B. Cromar

In 1907, H. B. Cromar became the State Fish and Game Commissioner and the Commissioner of Hatcheries of Utah. In 1907, some changes were made in the organization of the Department by the Legislature. A law was made restricting the number of wardens under the Department. Mr. Cromar felt this was a mistake because the work of the Department had greatly increased as they learned better methods of controlling the fish and game population, and they needed more help. He was also concerned about the fact that the people generally seemed to think that minor violations of the law should be overlooked.

Hunting and fishing licenses

The first license required in Utah appears to be a $5.00 license for seining in Utah Lake in the year 1894.

The first hunting or fishing license appears to have been in 1903 when nonresidents were charged $l0.00 for a gun permit.

The 1905 Legislature created a nonresident fishing and hunting license for $ 25.00. In State Fish and Game Commissioner John Sharp's biennial report to the Governor and the Seventh Session of the State Legislature of Utah, he made the following recommendation:

"That a resident hunting and fishing license of one dollar per year be provided for, and the proceeds from said license be recovered into the State treasury and held as a special fund for the especial purpose of defraying the expenses of the State fish and game Department."

Mr. Sharp explained his recommendation as follows:

"For the purpose of a more thorough and better protection, a more liberal appropriation is needed, and as a considerable aid to the state treasury in the premises, I believe that a local hunting and fishing license of one dollar per year would relieve the state greatly and place the burden where it rightly belongs, on the persons who derive the greatest benefit from the fish and game. A good many of the states have adopted this plan and secure thereby funds enough to defray all the expenses of their fish and game departments, and more in some instances."

As a result of the foregoing recommendation, the Seventh Utah State Legislature passed the following:

"Any bona fide male citizen or resident of the state of Utah over the age of fourteen years upon the payment of $1 to any justice of the peace of the county in which he resides, or the state commissioner, or any deputy warden, or any other person that may be authorized, shall be entitled to receive from the officer to whom such payment is made, a hunting and fishing license which shall permit such person to pursue, hunt, and kill any of the game animals or birds mentioned in this title during the time when it shall be lawful to kill the same, in any of the counties of this state, subject to the limitations as to the number of each kind of animals, or birds provided, and to catch fish with hook and line according to the provisions of this title. "Justices of the peace and any persons authorized to sell licenses shall retain ten per cent of all money collected as their fees; provided, that game wardens under salary shall remit full amount collected by them. "...all female persons resident of the state of Utah, may take game and fish under the provisions of this title without procuring a license as provided by this title. All licenses issued under the provisions of this title shall expire on the 31st day of January next following the date of their issue."

In 1907, the nonresident fishing and hunting license was cut to $10. Seiners were licensed at $5 plus one-fourth cent per pound for fish taken. In 1909, the resident license for males over 12 years of age was set at $1.25, nonresident fees were reduced to $5 and an alien combination license was set at $100.

By 1917, the nonresident license fee had been raised to $6, but the resident fee remained at $1.25. There was a $1.50 fee for a seining license except on Bear Lake and Utah Lake where the fee was set at $5.

In 1919, the general hunting and fishing license was raised to $2. For the first time, women were required to have a license .The fee for women and boys between the ages of 12 and 16 was set at $1. The seining license was raised to $5 except for Utah Lake where the fee was raised to $25. No distinction was made between residents and nonresidents in setting the 1919 fees. In 1923, a distinction was again made between residents and nonresidents. A nonresident could obtain a fishing license for $3, a fishing and hunting license excluding big game for $5, and a bear and deer license for $10. It was also specified in 1923, that no one under 16 years of age could hunt for deer.

In 1927, the combination hunting and fishing license was raised to $3. Separate resident hunting and fishing licenses became available at $2 each. There was also a $7.50 fishing license available to aliens. All other fees remained the same.

In 1943, the combination license was $4, the fishing license remained at $2, but the hunting license was increased to $3. The nonresident fishing license remained at $3, but the license for fishing and hunting excluding big game was raised to $10 and the deer license to $20. The license for resident males 12 to 16 and females over 16 remained at $1.

In 1947, the distinction between male and female with regard to fishing and hunting licenses was discontinued and the combination license fee was raised to $5. The resident fishing license was increased to $3 and the hunting license to $4. A resident game bird license was provided for $3. The nonresident fishing license was set at $5, game bird license at $15, and deer license at $30. The alien fishing license was raised to $12.

The next change in license fees for hunting and fishing in Utah occurred in 1951 when a resident deer license was provided for $3. The nonresident deer license was raised to $40. All other major licenses remained unchanged with the exception of the $4 game bird and game animal hunting license which was discontinued.

The next major change in hunting and fishing licenses occurred in 1967. The resident combination license fee was set at $10, resident fishing for those 16 years and over at $5, and resident fishing for those 12 to 16 years at $ 2. The resident deer license was set at $5 and the resident small game license at $4.50. A small game license for those residents 12 to 16 years was set at $2.50. Nonresident fees were set as follows: 2-day fishing, $2.5 0; 5-day fishing, $5; season fishing, $15; small game, $20; and deer, $50.

Fred W. Chambers

Cromar was replaced in 1909 by Fred W. Chambers. Commissioner Chambers received his appointment on March 28,1909, and on April 5, 1909 he filed his bond and assumed the duties of State Fish and Game Commissioner. (The title of Commissioner of Hatcheries was no longer used.) At this time, some changes came about in the administration. Mr. Brig. Madsen of Provo was appointed Chief Deputy (by Mr. Chambers) and the state was divided into six districts. The affairs of each district were directed by chief wardens. Districts were created and district wardens appointed by the Commissioner as follows:

First District: Comprising the counties of Box Elder, Cache, Morgan, Rich and Weber — A. H. Moyes, chief warden, Ogden, Utah

Second District: Comprising the counties of Davis, Juab, Salt Lake, Tooele, and Utah — J. C. Smith, chief warden, Murray, Utah

Third District: Comprising the counties of Summit, Uintah, and Wasatch — M. B. Pope, chief warden, Theodore, Utah

Fourth District: Comprising the counties of Carbon, Grand, San Juan, and SanPete — N. P. Aagard, chief warden, Fountain Green, Utah

Fifth District: Comprising the counties of Emery, Garfield, Piute, Sevier, and Wayne — Byron Hanchett, chief warden, Annabella, Utah

Sixth District: Comprising the counties of Beaver, Iron, Kane, Millard, and Washington — MIA Day, chief warden, Fillmore, Utah

Along with this, the Department began an enthusiastic campaign for law enforcement. They felt that by getting the attention of the people, they would urge them to obey the fish and game laws.

At the end of the period 1911 to 1912, Commissioner Chambers reported to Governor William Spry that the new system "put into action a proficient organization." Through their campaign for enforcement, violations decreased and a good feeling existed between the Department and the sportsmen. At this time, Commissioner Chambers recommended that some lands be set aside as State Game Preserves and that hunting in these areas be prohibited by law.

In his biennial report of 1915-1916, Mr. Chambers said, "Under my supervision, the work of the department has been divided into an office force and a field force. In the office the Commissioner and one clerk do the work with an extra clerk when needed.

"The enforcement of the Fish and Game laws is in the hands of the Chief Deputy, Chief District Wardens, and also the County Wardens, who are men that are energetic and upright. Their duties do not end at any stated hour of the day, but they are on duty day and night, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays being their busiest days. To enforce the law without fear has always been their object."

R. H. Siddoway

Although Commissioner Chambers was optomistic concerning the district method of administration, others were not so pleased. In 1917 when Simon Bamberger became Governor, he changed the Department back to the old system and appointed R. H. Siddoway as the State Fish and Game Commissioner. The new administration felt that the district method had been ineffective because of jealousy among the district administrators and also because of their inexperience.

Mr. Siddoway was very concerned about the financial state of the Department when he took office. The Fish and Game Fund had a balance of $157.31, while the outstanding indebtedness for salaries, expense accounts, and supplies amounted to $2,847.46 a deficit of $2,690.15. Commissioner Siddoway proposed changing the license year from June 1 to May 31 of each year to from January 1 to December 31 of each year. This, he said, would give a better opportunity for closing up the business of the Department and rendering a better time for financial statement.

Commissioner Siddoway worked closely with Governor Bamberger and by 1918 (through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses) had increased the balance in the Department fund to $7,268.53

In his biennial report of 1918-1919, Commissioner Siddoway stated: "Since the last Biennial Report there has been a noted increase of expense in running the Department. This has come naturally, because of the fact that war conditions left us with inflated prices." The Department was compelled to increase the salaries of the wardens. Because of this, the price of a hunting and fishing license was increased from $1.25 to $2.00. Commissioner Siddoway reported that this increase in license fees amply met the increased expenses of the Department and even supplied the money for hatchery repairs and some experiments with the development of screens for fish screening.

On March 13, 1919, the State Legislature made provisions for five game preserves to be set up. This had been suggested in 1912 by Commissioner Chambers and carried through by Commissioner Siddoway. Mr. Siddoway was very proud of the accomplishment and felt it was the greatest step the State had ever taken toward the conservation of game.

D .H Madsen

With a new governor in 1921 came a new Fish and Game Commissioner. Newly elected Charles R. Mabey appointed D. H. Madsen as Commissioner.

Commissioner Madsen noted that the number of sportsmen in the State was greatly increasing and that this was due, in part, to the increasing number of automobiles in the State. To aid these new hunters, the Department endeavored to anticipate the opening of new roads and trails into the more isolated sections of the State, by providing adequate facilities for stocking such places before the population of the State invaded these areas.

Under Commissioner Madsen, the State increased its number of fish hatcheries to eight (Logan, Murray, Springville, Timpanogos, Whiterocks, Glenwood, Beaver and Panguitch) and also increased the number of full time wardens. In 1924, out of the total of 24 employees in the Department, 14 gave their entire time to propagation work and 10 acted as law enforcement officers only. The administration felt that this increase greatly aided in the enforcement of the state fish and game laws.

In 1926, Commissioner Madsen said, "The Department has reached the point where, with its present income, it is absolutely impossible to increase the machinery by which we may have increased production." To take care of this problem, he suggested that the license to hunt deer in Utah be increased to $5.00, that a joint license for fishing and hunting small game be provided for $3.00, and that a joint license for hunting and fishing all game be provided for $5.00. He didn't stay in office long enough to see his plans put into use as he resigned the office after seven years of service.

J. Arthur Mecham

Commissioner Madsen was replaced by J. Arthur Mecham in 1927. Mr. Mecham served until 1930. During this time, the Department constructed a total of 43 new rearing ponds at its various hatcheries. This helped bring about a great increase in the number of fish planted in the State.

Elk problem

Except for one small, isolated herd, the native elk had been exterminated. Protection alone could not be depended upon to restore their numbers, An attempt was made, therefore, to re-establish them by importing animals. From 1912 to 1915, 155 elk from the Jackson Hole and northern Yellowstone herds had been released in six localities. Sportsmen, ranchers, and other interested persons paid the costs of handling and shipping them.

The imported elk multiplied rapidly - so fruitful were they in their new homes that conflicts with private property owners soon arose. By 1921 the Legislature had to authorize the game commissioner to kill elk that were damaging farms or other property.

Overpopulation soon occurred. The herds of elk had grown by 1925 to the extent that some of the suitable areas were fully stocked, and competition with domestic livestock on private and public lands was reported. The problem no longer could be solved by killing a few marauding elk .

Board of elk control

To resolve the dilemma, the Utah Legislature in the year 1927 established a supervisory committee, the State Game Refuge Committee and Board of Elk Control, whose members included representatives of sportsmen, wool growers, cattle and horse breeders, the Forest Service, the State Park Commission, and the commissioners of the county in which a particular game refuge was situated. The State Fish and Game Commissioner was chairman.

The duties of the board were to supervise the establishing, adjusting, opening, and closing of elk refuges; designating seasons and localities in which elk hunting could be done, and determining the sex and the number of animals that could be killed. Regulation of the kill was accomplished by the sale of nontransferable permits to hunt elk to sportsmen selected by public drawing.

Fisheries research

During 1930, a federal appropriation became available to the Bureau of Fisheries for use in the mountain states, including Utah. Dr. Vasco M. Tanner of Brigham Young University was appointed as their investigator to study the fish feeding conditions of the mountain lakes and streams of the State and to make recommendations for a stocking policy. The Fish and Game Department realized that this information would be of great benefit to them and cooperated by appointing J. Everett Hancey of the Davis High School faculty as his assistant. This was the first times that the Fish and Game Department of Utah had attempted to place a fish stocking policy on a scientific basis.

Newell B. Cook

On March 15, 1931, Newell B. Cook became Fish and Game Commissioner. Mr. Cook served until 1940. During these ten years, many changes came about in the Department. In order to get the Department activities before the people, lectures were prepared for high schools, junior high schools, Boy Scout groups, etc. The lectures were illustrated with motion pictures and were educational rather than entertaining. By 1934, a total of 98,409 people had seen the lectures and the lectures had been presented to 339 separate audiences.


Through cooperation with federal agencies such as the CCC and WPA, the Department was able to develop the fish and game resources far in advance of what would have been possible under the regular procedures of the Department.

Cooperative wildlife research unit

A scientific research program was initiated in 1933 in cooperation with the Utah State Agricultural College. By 1940, this program was in full operation and the Department felt that through this method, information could be supplied that was essential to the administration and proper management of the States wildlife resources.

Board of Big Game Control

The Board of Elk Control effectively managed the elk herds for six years. In March, 1933, the Legislature amended the law, changed its name and extended its powers to include all big game.

The new committee was designated the State Game Refuge Committee and Board of Big Game Control. It had five members -representatives of cattle and horse breeders, wool growers, sportsmen, the Forest Service, and the State Fish and Game Director, who was chairman. Their acts were to have the full force and effect of law.

The new board was authorized to define more accurately the boundaries of the game preserves and regulate travel on them; to designate additional refuges for big game; and to conduct investigations, as a basis for designating special hunting seasons and areas and the number and sex of big game animals to be killed. Thus, adequate authority to handle the mule deer problem was provided. The exercise of this authority, however was another matter.

Three-man commission

A radical change in the administration of the Utah State Fish and Game Department came in 1941. Whereas, before a commissioner had had full power, the authority was given to a three-man commission in 1941. The Commission consisted of Newell R. Frei, chairman; E. N. Larsen; and George H. Harrison. The director was Mark Anderson. The change was brought about upon the election of Governor Herbert B. Maw. The 1941 State Legislature decreed that "the administration of the department shall be under the supervision, direction and control of a commission which shall be known as the fish and game commission."

Five-man commission

In 1942, the Legislature created a five-man commission and a director to serve as the administration of the Fish and Game Department. The difference was that the director held all the administrative power and authority and the Commission served in a policymaking capacity. The first director under this new organization was Ross Leonard. The Commissioners were Newell R. Frei, chairman; E. N. Larsen, George H. Harrison, Jack Clay, and Frank R. Pace. Mr. Leonard served until 1947.

Randal L. Turpin and Perry Egan

On August 5, 1948, Randal L. Turpin became Director and served until October 4, 1949 when he resigned to resume his duties as Federal Aid Coordinator. At this time, Perry Egan became the Director. During the latter part of Mr. Egan's administration as Director, considerable thought was given to the reorganization of the Fish and Game Department into a line and staff organization instead of a straight line organization.

Mr. Egan's illness and his untimely death on January 4, 1958 precluded his following through with the plan.

Harold S. Crane

Following the death of J. Perry Egan, the responsibility of acting as Director was undertaken by Harold S. Crane. He was officially appointed to the office of Director on March 1,1958.

Department reorganization

After considerable study and careful planning, it was decided, for administrative purposes, to divide the State into four regions. Regional offices were established in Ogden (Northern Region), Provo (Central Region) , Price (Eastern Region), and Cedar City (Southern Region). A fifth region with an office in Vernal was established in 1962, by dividing the Eastern Region into the Northeastern Region and the Southeastern Region.

Of the regional type organization, it was said that it is generally accepted that this concept is most appropriate for an agency where a variety of technical specialized functions must be carefully researched, planned, and programmed and then carried out day-to-day over a large geographic area.

This concept had been effectively used by other organizations for some time. The line and staff organization coupled with decentralized regional authority was particularly appropriate for the wide variety of technical programs and specialized functions of the Utah Department of Fish and Game.

Under the reorganization, each region was administered by a Regional Supervisor and a staff consisting of a game manager, a fish manager and a law enforcement-educational officer. All Department personnel in the regions came under the direct supervision of the Regional Supervisors.

The Regional Offices proved to be of more and more value as an ever-increasing population made greater demands on the State's renewable resources. This type of organization brought fish and game government closer to the people in the various regions and resulted in better management of fish and game resources. It freed the Director and his staff to accomplish the important administrative functions of long range planning and programming.

Assistant director

The position of Assistant Director was approved by the State Director of Personnel and the Merit System Council in June of 1959. The Assistant Director was appointed by the Director.

The main duties of the Assistant Director were to plan and organize work programs and procedures with the Director, and to act for the Director in his absence.

Mr. John E. Phelps was appointed to the office of Assistant Director on June 16, 1959.

John E. Phelps

Following the death of Harold S. Crane in January of 19661 Assistant Director John E. Phelps became Acting Director. The Fish and Game Commission appointed him Director on April 27, 1966. Official approval of the appointment by Governor Calvin L. Rampton was given July 11 1966.

Little Hoover commission

In 1965, the Utah Legislature created the "Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government," more popularly referred to as the "Little Hoover Commission."

It was the recommendation of this Commission to assign overall responsibility for natural resources management to a Commissioner of Natural Resources Services.

It was recommended that under this Commissioner there be four departments - Department of Natural Resource Regulation, Department of Water Resources, Department of Land Management and Department of Recreation and Wildlife.

Under this recommendation, the functions of the Fish and Game Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission would be combined into a single department.

Acceptance of hoover commission report

The second special session of the Utah Legislature in 1966 passed the following:

"A Joint Resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Utah accepting the report of the Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of Government and requesting a continuing effort by the Governor for the grouping of State agencies, commissions, boards, and functions; and providing for a report to the thirty-seventh Legislature."

The resolution read further that the, "continuing effort be made by the Governor, group State agencies, ... in order to eliminate waste and duplication and to effect economies, and that this effort be made before statutory changes are imposed."

It stated further "that the Governor may appoint an administrative assistant or others, utilizing existing personnel, to serve as coordinators for the purpose of effectuating a grouping of state agencies...."

1966 regrouping

Under the provisions of the resolution passed by the Second Special Session of the Utah Legislature in 1966, Governor Rampton grouped the Utah State Department of Fish and Game with the State Park and Recreation Commission and appointed F. C . Koziol as his coordinator for the group.

Department of Natural Resources

The thirty-seventh Utah State Legislature in 1967 passed legislation creating the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

The legislation stated in part, "the purpose of this act is to coordinate and consolidate in a single department of State government the functions heretofore exercised by the State Engineer, the State Water and Power Board, the State Land Board, the Park and Recreation Commission, the Fish and Game Commission, the Board of Forestry and Fire Control, and similar and affiliated agencies, in order to establish lines of administrative responsibility, increase administrative efficiency and decrease the cost of State government."

Under this act, the newly created department would include the following divisions: Division of Water Rights, Division of Water Resources, Division of State Lands, Division of Oil and Gas Conservation, Division of Great Salt Lake Authority, Division of Parks and Recreation, and Division of Fish and Game.

Under this reorganization, the Board of Big Game Control was retained as was the Fish and Game Commission, however, the name of the Commission was changed to Board of Fish and Game.

A coordinating council comprised of seven members was appointed with the responsibility of establishing the policy of the Department of Natural Resources and effecting coordination and cooperation among the boards, authorities, and divisions.

An Executive Director of Natural Resources was appointed by the coordinating council as the chief administrative officer of the Department of Natural Resources. Their selection was Jay Bingham, former Director of the Utah Water and Power Board.

Mr. Bingham's new duties include administrative jurisdiction over each of the Division Directors for the purpose of implementing Department policy as established by the coordinating council.

The establishment of the Utah Department of Natural Resources became effective on July 1, 1967.

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