Palmer, Clarion lynch commercial fishers

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2002

After reading Les Palmer's recent article opining on his visit to the last Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee meeting, I had a whole new appreciation for the Alaska Natives in Anchorage who felt the sting of paint balls shot at them by spoiled, ignorant, white boys with nothing else to do but pick on someone who would never have an equal chance to fight back. As you will recall, these despicable acts were videotaped along with the perpetrators disparaging comments about their victim's ethnic background.

I, and I am sure many of the committed individuals who show up tirelessly to discuss fish and game management issues with local biologists at the advisory committee meetings, were shocked to feel the sting of being disparaged -- not in a video of national import -- but in our local newspaper by a person who does his drive-by shooting with his pen and the support of the Peninsula Clarion.

Instead of using the despicable racial epithet of "Eskimo," it was the derogatory and pejorative use of the term "commercial fisher." Like any small-minded person who profiles people based on one attribute, Les Palmer sat, grinned, did not contribute and walked away to spew his diatribe to the few ignorants who would listen.

Although acting like he was reporting a public meeting that, unfortunately, many members of the public rarely attend, Les apparently showed up with an agenda that I thought was left for those with little capacity to think critically about the important challenges that face our local salmon resources. The information he left out of his report illuminates why all should remember that neither Palmer nor the Clarion can be trusted for unbiased information on local fishing issues.

Left out of his "report," Les Palmer refused my request that he accept a nomination to represent local sport fisherman on the advisory committee. He refused to note that the committee sent a letter to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game thanking the local fish and game biologists for working with the advisory committee to provide valuable information and learn about the concerns of local users of our fish and game resources. Palmer also forgot to mention that our committee sent a letter to the Board of Fish requesting they send a representative to our community prior to the upcoming meetings to meet with local advisory committees in order to make those meetings more productive on local issues.

He failed to mention that it was the local advisory committee that undertook designation of seats to particular user groups to ensure representation.

He conveniently neglected to mention that strong debate occurred between committee members and the local sport fish biologist and that the committee attempted to support the objectives of the department consistent with the committee's stance on protecting fishery resources over unbridled access.

Finally, he failed to mention commercial guides apparently failed to attend the recent advisory committee meeting because they were meeting across town -- without the local Department of Fish and Game sport fish biologist. Perhaps they were too afraid to defend the proposals they have submitted to the Board of Fish in front of the biologists and local advisory committee members.

As he opined how commercial fishers control the committee, it was interesting that he failed to consider that since not one sport fishing local has attended an advisory committee meeting to complain about the advisory committee process, that perhaps it is not local commercial fishers that have disenfranchised sport fishers, but the unchecked growth and political strength of commercial fishing guides who have ruined sport fishers' enjoyment and chased parents and their children from our local rivers.

After 26 years in Alaska, I have been proud to work on several committees and boards in our local community and in the greater south-central Alaska region. In all that time I cannot think of any occasion where the conduct of a public meeting attended by sincere and committed fellow neighbors was more mischaracterized than by what was presented by Les Palmer.

Unfortunately, it is no surprise that our community remains plagued by some who want to create hate and dissension among neighbors. What is a surprise is that our local newspaper would give such individuals a rope to do their dastardly lynching of those with whom they senselessly hate.

Jim Butler sits on the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee as a public at-large member. A 26-year resident of Kenai, he is an attorney who works primarily in the fields of corporate and environmental law. He also has commercially fished off and on during his years in Alaska.

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