LAYTON -- As a kid chasing rabbits in the Wasatch Mountains behind his Weber County home, Greg Sheehan developed an interest and appreciation for Utah wildlife.
"I liked to come home from school and head up to the mountains behind our house," the Weber High School graduate said.
Sheehan, 50, now of Layton, has been named the new director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Department of Natural Resources made the appointment official Nov. 20, said Amy Canning, DWR communication specialist.
Sheehan, who has 20 years with the department, replaces Jim Karpowitz, who retired Dec. 1 after leading the division since 2005.
Sheehan, who has been the DWR's Administrative Services chief since 2002, received a master's degree in business administration from Utah State University. He said his goal is to bring more Utah families into the state's outdoors.
"Most of us have made a choice to live in this state," he said. And Utahns, by nature, are generally avid sportsmen and -women, he said.
That can be attributed to the state's wide range of topography -- from high mountains to low deserts -- offering an array of wildlife.
"It's just around us, and people love to see it," said Sheehan, whose own hobbies include hunting, fishing and photography.
Being married, with two sons -- one who attends Layton High School and the other Utah Valley University in Orem -- Sheehan said one of his goals as director is to restore the state's heritage of family hunts by creating more opportunities for them.
"I want to get families out together," Sheehan said.
There is also a need to strengthen the state's deer herd, he said, which for some people has been an area of frustration.
For those who don't hunt, Sheehan said there are other ways to enjoy the state's wildlife, such as bird watching or photography.
Sheehan's educational background in business should help him achieve some of his goals, officials said.
"(Sheehan) brings a business background to the position," said Mike Styler, executive director of the State Department of Natural Resources.
"But he's much more than an MBA. I've been in the field with (Sheehan), and he's truly committed to a bright future for Utah's wildlife," Styler said in prepared remarks.
"Wildlife Resources is kind of like a business. We have to cover, with our revenues, 90 percent of our operation cost," Sheehan said.
But hard work is not new to the Weber County native.
In 20 years as division chief, Sheehan has been part of enhancing more than 1 million acres of wildlife habitat through the Watershed Restoration Initiative; boosted fish hatchery production to more than 1.1 million pounds per year by rebuilding hatcheries and expanding access for Utah's sportsmen and sportswomen through new community fisheries; the Walk-In Access program; and an access agreement with Utah's School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, according to DWR officials.
Sheehan and his wife, nicknamed Charlie, have been married for 26 years. She is a graduate of Layton High School.
The Sheehan family has lived in Layton for more than 20 years.