Ruffner confirmed for Board of Fisheries

Without a single objection, the Legislature approved the three candidates for the Board of Fisheries in a joint session Friday.

Two of the candidates — Israel Payton of Wasilla and Robert Ruffner of Soldotna — will take their seats on July 1, 2016. The term of the third, Alan Cain of Anchorage, will be effective immediately, as he is filling the seat vacated by Bob Mumford, who resigned effective March 14, 2016.

In one of the least controversial confirmation votes in recent Board of Fisheries history, the three candidates received no objection in the joint House and Senate session Friday. Board of Fisheries nominations have been notoriously contentious, as last year’s, when Robert Ruffner ultimately failed to be confirmed after lengthy questioning in several committees and opposition from sportfishing groups.

Ruffner said he was expecting to be confirmed but did not know what to expect of the confirmation hearings themselves. They were contentious and long last year, but this year they were completely different, he said.

“There was definitely a signal that it wasn’t going to be like last year, but I think it’s pretty unusual to not have a single comment on the floor about any of the three nominees,” Ruffner said.

Throughout the committee hearings, the senators and representatives who opposed Ruffner’s confirmation last year reassured him that they would support his confirmation this year because he was no longer applying for a seat on the board they considered to be traditionally reserved for a sportfish representative.

Ruffner has a background in conservation work on the peninsula, with some experience in sportfishing and two days’ commercial fishing experience. Payton is a former sportfish guide and subsistence user from Wasilla; Cain is a former Alaska State Wildlife Trooper from Anchorage who has also worked as a consultant with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Ruffner said he has had the chance to talk with Payton throughout the process but has not yet had a chance to confer with Cain, though he said he thought he had met him before during the Board of Fisheries process. The first meeting for the Board of Fisheries cycle is about six months away — there is a work session scheduled on Oct. 18–20, 2016 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna.

“I think that a lot of what will be on everybody’s mind is how the season goes this year, and I hope that the projections that we’ve gotten will come to bear,” Ruffner said. “I’m ready to roll my sleeves up and get to work.”

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