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Skaugstad Angles for Post as Head of Alaska Fish and Game

Tim Mowry / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / January 15, 2005

A local sport fish biologist is hoping to land the job as Alaska's fish and game chief.

Cal Skaugstad, a Fairbanks fisheries biologist with the Division of Sport Fish at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, is one of four candidates being considered for the agency's vacant commissioner's job.

A 24-year veteran at Fish and Game, Skaugstad heads up the Interior's fish stocking program.

Why in the world would an unassuming sport fish biologist want to jump into the high-profile hot seat that is the commissioner's chair?

"That's the number one response I've gotten from everybody--are you crazy?" Skaugstad said.

But Skaugstad, an avid trap shooter and bird hunter, has had his sights set on Fish and Game's top spot for a while.

"It's been a goal for a long time," he said. "With this administration I thought this might be the right time and place for me to go for it."

The other three candidates selected by a joint committee comprised of state Boards of Fisheries and Game members are:

* Acting commissioner Wayne Regelin, who took over when former commissioner Kevin Duffy left office at the end of the year. Regelin served as director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation under former Gov. Tony Knowles and was retained as a deputy commissioner when Gov. Frank Murkowski took office.

* Doug Mecum, director of the state's commercial fisheries division.

* Roland Maw, a commercial fisherman and executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association based on the Kenai Peninsula.

The candidates will be interviewed Feb. 22-23 by the joint Fish and Game board, which will then forward its recommendations to Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Unlike other state departments where the chief is appointed by the governor, state law requires the Boards of Fisheries and Game provide a list of candidates for the governor's consideration. Murkowski may request additional nominations if he is not happy with the list.

Since he made his intentions known by applying for the job in December, Skaugstad said he has been getting a lot of phone calls from hunters and fishermen expressing their opinions and ideas on changes that need to be made in Fish and Game.

"I'm getting the impression a lot of people want the department to head in a different direction," said Skaugstad, mentioning predator control, intensive management and the Magnusson-Stevens Act as frequent topics of discussion.

"I think we need to focus on our core mandates--sport fishing, commercial fishing and game," said Skaugstad, who has a master's degree in fisheries science.

As commissioner, Skaugstad said he would push state's rights issues, saying overturning the federal takeover of fish and game management on federal lands as one of his top priorities.

"We have to take back our management authority from the feds," he said.

Skaugstad would also like to see more local management of fish and game.

"I don't like to see outside interests influence the board process or management of our fish and wildlife," he said.

As for predator control, one of the most controversial game issues now facing both the governor and the department, Skaugstad he supported it "when and where needed."

The support he has received so far has been a pleasant surprise.

"At least people believe I can get something done," he said.

News-Miner staff writer Tim Mowry can be reached at tmowry@newsminer.com or 459-7587

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