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One for Management

State of Alaska / Board of Fish and Game

Opinion / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / February 21, 2005

A six-member subcommittee of the state boards of Fish and Game, three from Fame and three from Fish, will be interviewing possible candidates for the position of commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in days to come.

The subcommittee will make its recommendation to the joint boards and it will in turn over a name or names to Gov. Frank Murkowski. There is a name from Fairbanks that should be one of the ones, if not the one, forwarded.

The commissioner selection process drew a little attention lately as the committee had narrowed its list to four names and the governor asked it to extend the application period for a wider selection. No less than seven more names poured into the hat. The process allows the governor a great deal of latitude, to the point of asking the boards to go back to the beginning if he's not satisfied with final selections.

The committee whittled the list of 11 applications to eight finalists to be interviewed. It would not be unusual for the committee to bring forth more than one name to the boards and, likewise, the governor may receive more than one from which to choose.

Apparently many think they have the vision and leadership to set things right in our Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

One certainly does.

Fairbanks biologist Cal Skaugstad states his intentions clearly.

"I want everybody who buys a hunting, fishing or trapping license to feel proud that their money is going toward responsible fish and wildlife management. Right now, that's not happening," he said.

Skaugstad, currently with the Division of Sport Fish, has 24 years with the department. He's done his time in the field, knows commercial fishing and subsistence concerns and also has been heavily involved with fish rearing and stocking programs. He's worked from Bristol Bay to Badger Slough, so to speak.

A sportsman, he is also acutely aware of the needs of hunters and trappers via the Division of Wildlife Conservation.

His background and views are bit more well-rounded than other candidates. Naturally, one might say, the newspaper of Interior Alaska would support a Fairbanks candidate. But the view of the state's resources from far north requires a broader scope. Biologists from Fairbanks work throughout the state, but they can also appreciate the needs upriver that others may not appreciate to such a degree.

Many local residents point to Skaugstad as a key figure in pushing the Fairbanks fish hatchery plan to the point it has reached. He realized the importance of hatchery fish to Interior fisheries and the potential for a site located here. Understandably, this was not a priority for his superiors in Juneau and Anchorage.

Skaugstad approaches the topic modestly, says there were many people with an idea he just helped along and that he lent his position and expertise to their needs. Yet others point to Skaugstad as a rallying influence and a man with a well-reasoned tone and approach that people listened to and followed.

His chief goals for the department of Fish and Game are engaging users of fish and game resources, building accountability, and rebuilding credibility and trust in the department.

Alaska needs a leader at the head of the department who is conscious of the needs of the people of the state, and those within the department need an administrator with well-rounded experience who knows how to get people working together.

Cal Skaugstad could be that commissioner.


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