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RSG's 30th Anniversary Celebration Continues with Inaugural Lecture

By Amanda Morad | September 13, 2013

Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech.

As part of this year's activities celebrating the 30th anniversary of Regent University's Robertson School of Government (RSG), the inaugural A. Willis Robertson lecture was held Tuesday, Sept. 10. With a focus on Virginia government and political issues, the new lecture honors the school's namesake, Senator A. Willis Robertson, father of Regent's founder and chancellor, Dr. M.G. "Pat" Robertson.

"This lecture is about the legacy of a family dedicated to public service," said RSG dean, Dr. Eric Patterson, as he opened the event. Senator Robertson was a national figure who spent a half-century serving his country, first as an Army officer in World War I and later spending four decades representing Virginia as an elected official.

The featured guest speaker was Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech. The self-proclaimed "Secretary of Fun" has a job that would have been near and dear to Senator Robertson's heart as a national leader in conservation efforts. Domenech presides over Virginia's state parks and trails, including hunting and fishing regulations.

He began his remarks describing the early days of discovery in Virginia and the natural resource crisis that Robertson faced head on at the dawn of the 20th century. "It was a matter of taking too much without understanding the consequences and having little restraint," he explained. "Americans weren't thinking about conserving resources, they were celebrating their good fortune."

And with few standards in place for hunting, fishing and development in those days, many national wildlife populations such as bison, antelope and beaver took a deep plunge in numbers and never recovered.

But Robertson, an all-American sportsman himself, saw the hammer as it fell and worked for 30 years to set legislation that would help support wildlife in America. That piece of legislature would eventually be called the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid to Wildlife Act, established in 1937.

It was essentially the first active "user pay, user benefit" law in which taxes from hunting rifles and ammunition, as well as hunting and fishing licenses, were re-invested into state efforts to protect wildlife habitats and populations. To date, $6.4 billion has been invested since 1937.

"This act secured the future of our nation's wildlife," Domenech said. "Robertson left behind a legacy of conservation for this country's vast natural resources."

"Government has the capacity to do great good if the right people are willing to step forward and serve," Domenech said. "Our ideas can win the battle, but we have to be in the fight."

Domenech is on the State Cabinet and manages six state agencies that oversee parks and outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing, and historic resources including Civil War battlefields and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. He is also known as "The Green Guy," managing the state's environmental air and water quality, as well as the state's energy portfolio, and he also maintains relationships with the state's Native American tribes.

Learn more about the Robertson School of Government.

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