A quick look around Jeff Selinger's office shows the new area management biologist for the central Kenai Peninsula has spent more time getting acquainted with his new position than getting unpacked.
Having only been on the job since mid-July, it's understandable that piles of boxes and stacks of files crowd Selinger's small office on the second floor of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game building in Soldotna. After all, being the primary game manager for an area as diverse as the peninsula means there's a lot to learn.
"The big challenge is getting to know a new area," Selinger said recently, during a brief break between the numerous phone calls he fields throughout the day. "The Kenai Peninsula has a lot to offer, a lot of diversity."
Selinger moved from Fairbanks in July to take over the post held by biologist Ted Spraker for 28 years. Although not yet entirely familiar with the area's varied terrain, Selinger's qualifications as a biologist indicate he should have no trouble stepping into Spraker's shoes.
Before coming to the peninsula, Selinger was an assistant area biologist, and he holds a degree in wildlife management from Michigan State University.
He said the challenge of being the new biologist on the block will be made easier because of the strong foundation laid by his predecessor.
"I don't think anything is broke down here," he said. "It's very nice to come into a situation like that."
And if he does run into any snares, Selinger is quick to point out that Spraker is still around to provide that extra insight.
"You did lose a lot of institutional knowledge. But I've known Ted Spraker for several years now, and he's still around."
He also noted that existing Fish and Game personnel have been key in making his transition a smooth one.
"It's a great office. There's really great people down here," he said.
One of the challenges he's already encountered on the job has been dealing with the myriad of regulatory agencies that operate on the peninsula, including Alaska State Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"There's a lot of challenges down here, working with the different agencies. The peninsula is really special because there's a lot of different players, and each agency has different mandates," he said.
Other than staking out his turf, Selinger said among his top priorities will be to prepare for the upcoming Board of Game meeting in March.
Besides being in charge of overseeing game management on the peninsula, Selinger also will be tasked with making recommendations to the board, as well as assisting members of the public in drafting proposals. Selinger said Alaska's system of game management offers biologists and the public alike the chance to influence how regulations are drafted.
"Alaska has a unique system for making game management decisions," said Selinger, who grew up on Michigan's upper peninsula.
"I would like to see more people involved. Even if I might not agree with their proposal, I'll help them draft it because it helps the process."
He said his job isn't to make sweeping changes to the area's game management, but to safeguard the resource for future Alaskans.
"I don't see many things that need changing. My job is the responsible management of the resource."
An avid hunter and outdoorsman, Selinger said he's excited to begin spending more time in the field. He said he's only had one opportunity to go "play around with a bow," but he plans to get out of the office more as the winter progresses.
For now though, he's still getting settled.
"So far, the main thing has been getting moved in," he said. "Now the No. 1 goal is to get acquainted and learn detailed information about the area."
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