As a former resident of Kenai I do my best to follow events. I recently learned that Dale Bagley, a candidate for Borough Mayor, has made comments suggesting that he should be credited for “getting the spruce bark beetle program up and going”. A correction is in order. Mike Navarre tackled this issue head on during his term as Mayor and was instrumental in getting this effort underway with a plan that had wide community support. Implementation began during his term as Mayor.
I served as the Mediator of the Task Force set up under Mayor Mike Navarre’s leadership in 1998 that resulted in the first agreement for a path forward on this difficult issue after several unsuccessful efforts over the previous ten years. The Task Force was comprised of representatives of environmental, timber, wildlife management, forestry, tourism, and state and local governments.
Mayor Navarre’s efforts ranged from his work with Senator Ted Stevens to get the initial appropriation of $483,500 that obligated the Borough and our Task Force to present a specific remedial plan to Congress. We met the Congressional requirements with a plan that represented a consensus of the diverse interests involved. This plan formed the foundation for efforts over the following decade that included additional millions of dollars coming into the Borough to help with hazardous tree removal and restoration efforts. In my opinion this would not have been such a success without the leadership, skill and vision Mike Navarre demonstrated.
I can also tell you that Mayor Navarre didn’t hesitate to roll up his sleeves and work with the Task Force spending many hours devoted to seeing our effort succeed. Each of the Task Force members deserves our thanks as well. They were committed to solving this problem in a collaborative, give and take manner. I commend the Borough, including subsequent Mayors who continued this program, as I believe it complimented overall efforts to improve the area’s public safety and habitat protection.
It was a pleasure to be a part of getting that effort underway.