Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors:Five questions with Wildlife Division Director Steve Beam
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Steve Beam gained a
foothold with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources more than
two decades ago by working as a seasonal wildlife technician. In the years
since, he climbed the departmental ladder and in May was appointed director of the
“I feel like I’ve
hit every rung on the ladder,” said Beam, who served as regional coordinator
for the Southeast Wildlife Region before moving into his present role. “I think
it gives me a unique perspective. When I look at the budget, I probably think
about it a little different because I know what may look like a small thing in the
overall budget is important to that person in the field who’s trying to deliver
habitat on the ground and provide service to hunters and to the public.”
who is an avid deer and turkey hunter, recently sat down for an interview at
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife headquarters in Frankfort. The following are
excerpts from that interview.
would you sum up your first months on the job?
Beam: It’s been exciting. I’m still on
a steep learning curve. There are still a lot of things I need to learn. We
have a lot of opportunity here and a lot of good work going on. I’ve gone out
and met with almost everybody in the division. To just hear what projects are
going on, what things they’re working on, it’s amazing. Everybody is out there
doing good work.
the projects you just referenced, what are the ones that you’re most excited
Beam: How habitat-focused we are
excites me because that’s something I truly believe in. I’m really excited
about how seriously Wildlife Division staff takes providing additional
opportunity. The Voucher Cooperator Elk Permit Program is a good example of
Voucher Cooperator Elk Permit Program opens more than 100,000 acres of private
land for drawn quota elk hunters this year. Is there something more in the
works that may lead to expanded hunting access in the state?
Beam: We are exploring every avenue and
every opportunity. One thing that I would like to highlight outside of the elk
voucher opportunity, which has been a big success, is how much acreage in
eastern Kentucky has been opened through public hunting or wildlife management
agreements. It’s more than 170,000 acres. Those give us access for elk, but
also open up that land for other hunting.
do things stand today with regard to the efforts to improve habitat for grouse
and other woodland species in eastern Kentucky?
Beam: We are in the process of hiring a
new biologist who will focus on spearheading that effort. It looks like our
first round of funding for the additional habitat work is going to be right on
schedule. While we don’t have the written plan as of yet, I know program staff
in Frankfort and field staff in the Northeast and Southeast wildlife regions
have a lot of ideas about how to focus some of that money. Grouse habitat is a
slow process. Most of the cuts are going to be six to 10 years before they’re
really good grouse habitat. This is not as quick of a turnaround as you see
with other small game species like rabbits and quail where you do habitat work
and a year or two later you start seeing major responses. With grouse,
obviously you have to look at the food resource, but the main issue is just the
in technology are revolutionizing the sport of hunting. With all of the
cutting-edge equipment on the market today, where might it lead from here?
It’s impossible to predict where we go now. I think technology is the
proverbial double-edged sword. It can be so wonderful. Think about what you can
do with a paper map and a GPS. Last year, I took a buck with a .30-06 rifle.
That’s technology that hasn’t changed much over the years. But then you look at
how much bows have changed in 100 years. And trail cameras? I think trail
cameras have helped hunters learn about deer and animal behavior in general. I
think that engages people and makes them more knowledgeable. But there are some
technological advances that we really have to be careful with. Most technology
taken too far can take you beyond fair chase. I think there are some potential
pitfalls with the drone technology. As hunters and conservationists, we have to
be very cognizant of what we’re doing and try to envision the possible impacts.