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Hunting guide's predator posts draw fire

An Enterprise hunting guide was dropped Monday from consideration for the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission seat representing Jackson County amid blistering criticism by conservation groups who saw him as unfit to oversee management of the state’s wildlife, including wolves.

James Nash, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and big-game hunter whose social media posts reportedly encouraged the killing of predators and included images of himself with a hippopotamus he said he shot at close range during a safari, was nominated last month by Gov. Kate Brown to the four-year commission seat that also represents Eastern Oregon.

But Nash’s name did not appear on a list of potential Brown appointees up for a public hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday before the Senate Rules Committee, an initial step needed before his nomination could be voted on by the full Senate.

Nash had been under fire the past week for Instagram images of African safari kills and carrying dead coyotes. He also drew intense blowback over a statement on his account, “If you consume prey species, you have an obligation to hunt the predators.”

Joseph Vaile, executive director of the Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, said published statements attributed to Nash sounded as if he was an opponent of wolf recovery in Oregon. Wolves are an apex predator whose management is a key charge of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Nash is also the son of outspoken wolf opponent Todd Nash, an Oregon Cattlemen’s Association officer who regularly lobbies the commission against predator protection.

“It sure sounds like he wasn’t the kind of person who had the best interest of all wildlife in mind, one who should not be put in that position in the highest level of our state government,” Vaile said.

Jim Akenson, a wildlife biologist and conservation director for the Medford-based Oregon Hunters Association, chided those who chose to judge Nash based on “mischaracterizations” and without speaking to him.

“I was disappointed in hearing all the mudslinging without people even talking to him and also making the assumption that he was going to function in a manner that mirrored his father,” said Akenson, who lives in Enterprise and is the husband of current commissioner Holly Akenson. “It doesn’t seem fair.”

Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild said he believes Nash’s appointment would have amounted to a conflict of interest.

“You’re going to appoint him to the commission when he’s going to be lobbied by his dad?” Pedery said.

Jim Akenson said the Africa photographs in question were animals killed legally and ethically several years ago during a trip to Africa sponsored for disabled vets in a “Wounded Warrior” event.

That Instagram account has since been taken down.

In his application, Nash said he is a former tank commander who earned two Purple Hearts during a tour in Afghanistan. He also listed heading intense fish-restoration work on the Wallowa River among past accomplishments.

Akenson said Nash could have provided key context as a hunter for commission members who do not hunt.

On his family’s 6Ranch website, Nash is described as a fifth-generation cattle rancher and hunting guide.

Nash could not be reached for comment.

The governor’s other four Fish and Wildlife Commission nominations were considered at Tuesday’s hearing and approved for full Senate confirmation votes.

The seven-member commission sets fish and wildlife policy in Oregon, authorizes the language that implements fish and wildlife laws passed by the Oregon Legislature, and oversees ODFW and its more than 1,100 employees.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

James Nash is shown with several dead coyotes in a photo taken from his Instagram account. Photo courtesy Oregon Wild