JUNEAU (AP) The Department of Public Safety is going ahead with a plan to merge its Fish and Wildlife Protection division with the Alaska State Troopers.
Commissioner Bill Tandeske announced Monday that Fish and Wildlife Protection will become a bureau within the troopers, rather than a separate division.
Tandeske had said in March he was considering the merger as a way to trim costs during a time of tight budgets.
Opponents expressed fears that enforcement of fish and game laws would suffer as a result. The former director of the Fish and Wildlife Protection Division, Col. Joel Hard, retired last spring because he said he could not support the change.
Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Ted Bachman said Monday the wildlife enforcement officers will be asked to help out more with traditional state trooper work during periods when their wildlife enforcement workload is lighter.
The two groups of officers receive the same training and have the same authority.
However, Bachman said, the wildlife enforcement officers will not be scheduled for regular trooper shifts.
''We wanted to be very careful not to completely blur the duties,'' Bachman said. ''We want to keep their focus on wildlife enforcement.''
The merger should reduce upper management costs, freeing up funds for street-level positions, Bachman said. The plan calls for one colonel position, instead of two, and two major positions, instead of three.
No layoffs are planned due to the reorganization, but some positions may not be filled when they become vacant, Bachman said. Hard's job, for instance, has been vacant since he left.
The new bureau will be called the Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement. Regional supervisors in Juneau, Palmer, Kenai, Kodiak, Fairbanks and Anchorage will report to a commander in Anchorage. The Anchorage office will be responsible for western Alaska.
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