A Havre native has been selected, pending Senate approval, to join other Hi-Line natives on the staff and administration of the incoming governor.
Gov. -elect Steve Bullock announced he is appointing Jeff Hagener director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Hagener said he is pleased to return to heading the agency.
"It is really an honor to go back to an agency that I have a great deal of passion for," said Hagener.
He would go back to FWP in a period of controversy over issues ranging from bison relocation to the state purchasing about 4,500 acres of private land in Hill County, and said resolving conflicts with landowners would be a priority.
"I think it is real important that we work closely with landowners and sportsmen and get everyone's input when we make decisions," Hagener said.
He joins a list of other people with ties to the Hi-Line Bullock has selected for positions, including Havre native and Havre High School graduate Stacie Otterstrom, an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa, as boards and appointments advisor; Chinook resident Ali Bovingdon, as deputy chief of staff; and Andrew Huff from Whitefish, an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, as chief legal counsel.
Hagener is the son of Louis Hagener, deceased, long-time science professor at Northern Montana College, now Montana State University-Northern, and Antoinette “Toni” Hagener, former Hill County commissioner and state representative.
He held the position as director of FWP for eight years under Govs. Judy Martz and Brian Schweitzer. Schweitzer replaced him in 2008 with Joe Maurier, who still holds that position.
Hagener’s appointment has received praise from all sides of the political spectrum.
State Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey, is the chair of the Senate Fish and Game Committee and a frequent critic of FWP. Brenden was a vocal opponent of the state purchase of the Aageson ranch in Hill County.
Brenden said he is intrigued by Bullock bringing Hagener back to the position.
"I think it shows the independence of Gov. -elect Bullock. And, until further notice, I will applaud him for that," he said. "I think it will be a step in the right direction, not that everyone is going to agree with him on every issue."
The Montana game wardens, who have campaigned for changes in work conditions, also welcomed Hagener's return. The group's lobbyist, George Golie, said they expect Hagener will be able to navigate the difficult legislative process — a must if employees are to expect pay raises or help on other issues.
"He understands all aspects of the agency, and he will have instant presence in front of any legislative committee, which is very important with the legislative session coming up," said Golie. "He has the ability to bring all sides together on any issue, which is very important given the strained relationships between landowners and sportsmen out there."
A Havre High School graduate, Hagener has a long career in public service and outdoors management. He worked for the federal Bureau of Land Management conducting range and wildlife inventories, then worked for the Montana state government as a range/reclamation specialist, then as the state’s chief of the Surface Management Bureau and then as the administrator of the Lands Division, now the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’ Trust Land Management Division.
Hagener also worked on many statewide boards and committees, and since leaving FWP in 2008 has worked as development director for the Montana Wildlife Federation and as senior biologist at NewFields, a natural resources consulting firm.