Palmer's column misrepresents work of advisory committee

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

Les Palmer's column, "Plenty of Proposals," Clarion, March 26, begs clarification and correction. Les begins by noting that Alaska Department of Fish and Game Kenai-Soldotna Advisory Commit-tee Chairman Kramer, "unlike past chairs of this committee, has encouraged members to submit proposals." By way of clarification, Fish and Game's Boards Support states that the purposes of the state's advisory committees, as established by the Legislature include "developing regulatory proposals." Chairman Kramer is thus doing the job he was elected to do.

Second, Les retells the divisive myth that the Kenai-Soldotna advisory committee has long been perceived as being dominated by commercial interests, and as such has been paid little heed by the Board of Fisheries. Achieving balanced representation of area interests is a challenge for all the state's advisory committees, and the Board of Fisheries takes this fact into account when hearing advisory committee testimony.

Moreover, the Board of Fisheries itself can develop an agenda and may pay little heed to any area's advisory committee testimony not in harmony with the board's agenda. The Kenai-Soldotna advisory committee is the same as any other in the state heeded by some Board of Fisheries and not much heeded by others.

Third, Les inaccurately reports that committee member Ken Tarbox, a retired state Fish and Game commercial fishing biologist, "submitted a proposal that would eliminate the present 'windows' commercial fishing time-and-area closures in the Kenai River Late Run Sockeye Manage-ment Plan." That is not true. Tarbox's proposal retains the language of the windows, leaving room for their preemption by emergency order only for the purpose of managing the run to achieve the Board of Fisheries mandated escapement goals.

Fourth, though committee member Tarbox did reiterate that present regulation is illegal, it was in fact state courts that said that the Board of Fisheries did not have the authority to limit the commissioner's executive order authority.

Fifth, though Les parenthesizes "over escapement," state commercial fishing and sport fishing area biologists agree that over escapement is a serious matter with negative implications for the long-term health of the resource and compromises the Department of Fish and Game's efforts to manage the resource on the principle of sustained yield.

Sixth, Les claims that it is commercial fishermen who blame present regulation for last year's over escapement of sockeyes into the Kenai River. Actually, it is the Department of Fish and Game which blames present regulation for last year's over escapement.

Seventh, Les says that sport fishers considered 2003 "a good year," but fails to note that the "good year" was achieved only by violating Board of Fisheries mandated escapement goals.

Eighth, Les incorrectly reports that committee member Tarbox said the Department of Fish and Game, at the regional level, declined to submit such a proposal because of its "allocative implications." Actually, it was said that the department declined to submit the proposal because it could be "contentious." The proposal in fact contains no allocative provisions allocations to various user groups are already in place, defined in present Board of Fisheries mandated escapement goals.

Ninth, the Kenai-Soldotna advisory committee did not adopt any proposal as its own but rather voted its support to send the proposals forward to the Board of Fisheries for consideration.

Tenth, when reporting Dr. Maw's proposals aimed at bear issues at Wolverine Creek and the Russian River, the advisory committee's unanimous support of those proposals, and the formation of an advisory committee subcommittee to deal with bear issues, Les should have noted that committee members Dr. Maw and Dr. Stringham hold Ph.D.s earned in bear studies. The advisory committee and the state are fortunate to have the benefit of such men's knowledge.

Eleventh, Les wrongly reports that Chairman Kramer submitted a proposal to "close the 'sanctuary' areas at Slikok Creek, Funny River and Lower Killey River to fishing until the end of king season." In fact, Chairman Kramer's proposal was to close those areas to fishing for kings until the end of king season.

Twelfth, Les claims that the "main" purpose of the advisory committee is to advise the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game on proposals for changing fishing and hunting regulations.

In fact, Boards Support enumerates the state's advisory committees' purposes as: Developing regulatory proposals;

Evaluating regulatory proposals and making recommendations to the appropriate board;

Providing a local forum for fish and wildlife conservation and use, including matters relating to habitat;

Advising the appropriate regional council on resources; and

Consulting with individuals, organizations and agencies with no particular "main" purpose prioritized.

Last, Les warns if the public doesn't attend the advisory committee's meetings, they shouldn't be surprised when bad things happen to their hunting and fishing. Such commentary is an affront to the men and women who have served and still serve the community and the state by their work on the committee.

The Kenai-Soldotna fish and game advisory committee is made up of elected volunteers, men and women at times of various and broad economic and social interests and who care enough about our community to try to work out reasonable solutions to contentious issues.

Good things can and do come from their efforts. Misinformation that can inflame divisive passions makes the job harder.

John Nelson, Soldotna

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