FRANKFORT, KY – Attorney General Daniel Cameron issued an opinion today about leases of property owned or managed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR).
The Opinion of the Attorney General makes clear that while KDFWR's Commissioner may propose beneficial leases, under state law only the Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet can lease real property.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources owns or manages more than 85 Wildlife Management Areas, some of which are leased for various activities—such as cutting hay and planting crops—that produce revenue for the state game and fish fund. For decades, the Cabinet has managed lease agreements for these lands at KDFWR's request.
The General Assembly recently granted extended procurement authority to KDFWR and its Commissioner. The Cabinet cites this recent legislation to explain its refusal to assist with any aspect of KDFWR's procurement process, which the Cabinet interpreted to include the leasing of state-owned properties. As KDFWR evaluates potential leases for the upcoming planting and harvesting seasons, the impasse jeopardizes a substantial stream of income to the game and fish fund.
The Opinion concludes that the General Assembly has not given KDFWR the power to lease any of the real property it owns or manages and that any such leases are not within its "procurement" authority. Only the Cabinet has the "power and duty" to lease real property owned or managed by KDFWR on its behalf.
The Opinion adds that nothing in Kentucky law provides the Cabinet with grounds for refusing to consider KDFWR's request to lease some of the real property it owns or manages. Having received an appropriate lease request, the Cabinet is obliged to consider and act upon it.
This dispute is the latest in the Governor's growing line of attempts to hamstring KDFWR. In 2020, the Governor proposed transferring $11 million of boat registration fees to the state's general fund, but the General Assembly declined to do so. Since then, the administration and KDFWR have tangled over who gets to appoint the Commissioner of the Department, with the General Assembly eventually resolving that issue in favor of KDFWR.
View the full opinion here.