The National Fish Habitat Board (Board) will kick off its first meeting of 2023 with a new Board Chairman. With the retirement of National Fish Habitat Board Chairman, Ed Schriever, the Board has announced a successor, Robert Boyles, Director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Boyles was appointed to the seat on the Board held by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), which is designated to Chair the Board per the 2020 America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (ACE Act). Mr. Boyles becomes the fifth Chairman of the Board following John Cooper (SD), Kelly Hepler (AK/SD), Tom Champeau (FL), and Ed Schriever (ID). Boyles is no stranger to the Board, having served as the Southeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) Representative to the Board since 2022. Mr. Boyles Chairman term will begin on February 11th.
“I want to thank the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for selecting me as their appointee to the Board and entrusting me with the role of Chairman in leading the Board. I’ve always said conservation is a team sport and look forward to working collaboratively with the Board and Partnerships in furthering the success of National Fish Habitat Partnership in meeting the goals and objectives set forth for the program in the ACE Act.“ said Robert Boyles, new Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “I look forward to working collaboratively with the Board as we set the course for future priorities for the program.”
“Robert Boyles’ experience in fisheries conservation both through his experience as the Marine Fisheries Director and as Director of the South Carolina DNR makes him the ideal person for this job,” said Curt Melcher, Director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “The Association is looking forward to Robert’s continued excellence in serving on the Board.”
As Director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Boyles serves as the chief administrator and is responsible for the management and supervision of the agency’s five divisions. Prior to becoming Director, Boyles served as the Deputy Director of the Marine Resources Division from 2003 to 2019. During this time, he also represented South Carolina on several national and regional marine resources stewardship panels, served on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (2005-2012), and was the Vice Chair (2006-2009) and chair (2010-2011) of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Robert holds a Master of Marine Policy from the University of Delaware and a B.S. in Mathematical Economics from Wake Forest University. Additionally, Robert was a Bradley Fellow in Marine Policy at the Duke University Marine Lab. Robert has also served in leadership roles for several of the Committees of AFWA.
Mr. Boyles first Board meeting as Chairman will be held in Washington, DC on February 28 – March 1, 2023.
Following Mr. Boyles appointment by AFWA as Chairman of the Board, Austin Booth, Director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) was appointed by SEAFWA as their representative on the Board. Mr. Booth was named Director in 2021, following his service as Captain in the United States Marine Corps in multiple capacities from 2011-2019, including a 2015-2016 deployment to Afghanistan. He came to the AGFC after 18 months as Chief of Staff and Chief Financial Officer at the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, where he oversaw financial functions as well as internal operations of the department. He is a graduate of The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, and received his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.