The state Wildlife Department was once a big hunting and fishing club, but changing times have made it an environmental agency that educates the public on how to hunt and fish sensitively, a change that long-time Nevadans have resisted. Chris Healy, who grew up in the state and thus is one of those long-time Nevadans, has the job of selling them on the changes.
How has the agency’s mission changed in your 19 years there?
I think that we have seen ourselves having to defend the way we manage the big game herds, and one of the ways we’ve had to do that is educate people on a number of different things. And one, especially, is, “Hey, we’re living in a desert. We have drought cycles.” And for basically almost 19 years worth of being [a wildlife department employee], we’ve been in a drought for about 14 or 15 of those years. … We also have to tell people that we are in the process of urbanizing Nevada, and when you urbanize Nevada, you’re urbanizing deer habitat, for instance. We’ve also had to realize that we’re dealing with a lot of people who don’t have those old-time Nevada traditions—of hunting in a consumptive manner, when people didn’t have to go through a lottery system to get a deer tag or big horn sheep tag or an elk tag. Basically, they just bought a tag over the counter and went out hunting.
Tell me about your reaction to the changes in this town.
I understand the practical side. I understand that growth, these kinds of things are inevitable and that you need to learn how to live with them. But I also watch how we seem to continue to grow without keeping natural resources in mind, and that worries me. We keep promoting the Truckee River as one of the major pieces of the quality of life here in the Truckee Meadows, but we seem to be doing all we can to make sure there isn’t water to flow in the Truckee River.
You were once a familiar figure as a sportscaster. What was the change like?
For a while, of course, it was a hurt to the ego, getting fired from the television job, but once I got the job at the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and I started doing radio and TV for the department, I have found now that I seem to have more notoriety being the Nevada wildlife guy than I ever had being the Channel 2 sports guy. Nevadans still take their wildlife very seriously. Less than three out of eight people are native Nevadans. Well, I seem to hear from that core because they have those traditional wildlife values in them, and Nevadans care deeply about how we manage.
You’re still involved in sports.
I’m the commissioner of umpires for the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. I’ve been a baseball umpire for high schools. This’ll be my 31st year. … My kids have been involved in athletics as they’ve grown up.
Well, then—when you were at UNR, you wrote a piece for Sagebrush in which you said Title 9 might be a good idea, but it sought to move things too fast.
I remember writing that, and there’s nothing like having a daughter to change your perspective on things. I think it’s been a good thing overall to push and just keep reminding folks, “Hey, Title 9’s in the background.” I think it’s been nothing but positive for this university in the long run that we’ve been able to include—I think it’s probably half of the student population now, or maybe even more—in activities that even though they may not produce revenue, it puts a better face on it. It gives everybody hope, if you’re an athlete. We shouldn’t just have hope for the young guys, it should be for the young ladies, also. Yes, nothing like having a daughter to change your perspective.