Fish, game board chairs miss mark
Regarding the Nov. 3 letter “Fish, game board chairs encourage public engagement”:
Nothing could be further from the truth when we are talking about Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) Board of Fisheries meetings. I guess the context of the article was to somehow demonstrate how the Boards reach out to communities most affected by their decisions by holding meetings in proximities closest to the change proposals being weighed at the meeting. However, they failed to address the obvious elephant in the room: “Why hasn’t the Upper Cook Inlet meeting taken place in the Kenai/Soldotna area for nearly 20 years?”
If there was ever a poster child for where a meeting should be held it is the UCI meeting being held here in our area. It is by far the largest meeting undertaken by either Board that lasts for over two weeks and covers around 300 proposals. Roughly 85 percent of these proposals are for the Kenai and Kasilof rivers and immediate offshore waters. Additionally, after the first couple of days of public testimony about 90 percent of the attendees are from the Kenai area. The problem is that almost all of the Kenai area contingent represents the commercial sector, either commercial fishermen or sport fishing guides. The user group least represented is the private angler.
Although private anglers make up the largest user group they simply can’t afford the travel and expenses to attend an extended Anchorage meeting. They do not have a financial iron in the fire so they can’t write off their attendance as a business expense. Mostly, their interests are in the wellbeing of the fish or their ability to access the fisheries. For a private angler to attend an Anchorage meeting, provide public testimony and possibly serve in the committee process to discuss certain proposals of interest could easily involve 5 to 6 days and cost over $1,000 for travel, lodging and meals, not to mention the drive there and back in sometimes hazardous winter driving conditions.
For Board of Fish Chairman Jensen, to suggest that he is somehow interested in encouraging public engagement is laughable when it comes to the UCI meeting location. He just voted once again to hold the 2020 UCI meeting in Anchorage. I have found Mr. Jensen to be a nice person but his involvement and allegiance to certain special interest groups make him part of the problem not part of the solution.
A fair and equitable solution to this problem would be for the UCI meetings to rotate every other 3 year cycle between the Kenai/Soldotna area and the Anchorage/Mat-Su area. This recommendation has been brought before the Board for the last 10 years or more but is always trumped by politics when it comes time to vote.
The last 3 governors have all suggested to the BOF that the next meeting should be held in the Kenai area but it doesn’t happen. I would urge Governor Walker to look at who on the BOF continues to vote against a Kenai area meeting and weigh that in his judgment in whether or not to retain those individuals.
Kenai-area private angler