KRSA strong-armed Board of Fish into moving meeting

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee and Sen. Tom Wagoner have been working very hard for the better part of this year to convince the Board of Fisheries to have their January meeting, pertaining to Upper Cook Inlet fisheries proposals, here in the Kenai-Soldotna area. It only makes since because about 80 percent of the UCI proposals are relevant to Kenai and Kasilof river systems and offshore fisheries. These efforts were recently thwarted, however, in large part due to letters submitted to the board by the Kenai River Sportsman's Association, citing security reasons, claiming that Soldotna was an unsafe place to have these proceedings. They questioned our city's ability to provide a safe, secure environment, without intimidation or threats of violence, as well as concealed weapons laws, as some of the reasons to choose Anchorage over Soldotna. This is a slap in the face to all of us who live here and a gross distortion of the emotional tension that can arise from contentious issues and subsequent discussion. It is also a case of turning your back on a business community that would have stood to gain from a 12-day event such as this the very same business community that KRSA asks to support them during the Kenai Classic. And the very sad part of this whole thing is that it basically eliminated the average local angler from being able to attend and voice their opinions because of work requirements, logistical costs and the length of these particular proceedings.

You may be asking, why would a local organization representing sport fishermen take such a stand? Well, folks, it's all about power and control. Make no mistake about this, KRSA is all about the elite and closely aligned with the guides and guided anglers. The Kenai Classic was a stroke of genius, because it not only provided a large cash cow but it also provided an annual opportunity to rub elbows with the governor, Alaska Department of Fish and Game heads, Board of Fish members, etc., to lobby for their points of view on how our fisheries should be managed. You can't blame the guides in this situation, as it only makes sense to take advantage of such an opportunity, but it does put others with differing opinions at a definite disadvantage. Beyond the close environment of the Classic, KRSA also spends a great deal of time and money "wining and dining" Board of Fish members and sending a large contingency of people to the board meetings so that they can control the process. They have been very successful at this and the "catch and release" fiasco of a couple of years ago is a perfect example.

Please don't think that I don't appreciate the positive things that KRSA does for the river and our community, but their determined drive for political power and control of the department and the Board of Fish stinks, and is a black eye on their organization.

The UCI portion of the board meeting is slated to be in Anchorage on Jan. 17-29. I would encourage anyone who can afford the time and interest in UCI management issues to attend. The proposals up for consideration at this meeting have been distributed and are available online through the Fish and Game Web site. If you have any questions about these proposals you can contact our local Fish and Game office on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Dwight Kramer, Kenai

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