The outgoing director of the Soldotna-based Kenai Watershed Forum has been appointed by Gov. Bill Walker to the state’s Board of Fisheries.
Robert Ruffner, a longtime central Kenai Peninsula resident known for his habitat advocacy, applied for the spot in February and has been appointed to the seat recently vacated by former chairman Karl Johnstone. Johnstone resigned from his term early upon learning that he would not be reappointed for another term. The board is tasked with setting statewide fisheries regulation.
Ruffner said the governor’s office called him Monday to let him know that he’d been selected. He said he was honored and humbled to have gotten the nod.
“As the nominee, there are still 60 legislators that will weigh in on the nomination and I hope that they look at my record of public service, background in science and dedication to the work I’ve done to date,” he said.
Ruffner came out ahead of at least 12 other people who had applied for a board seat in 2015. However, board member Orville Huntington’s term expires in June and the governor has yet to announce whether he’ll reappoint Huntington to the position. Board of Fisheries appointments must be made by April 1 of the calendar year in which the board member’s term expires.
All appointments to the board are subject to legislative confirmation. The governor’s last appointment to the seat, another Kenai Peninsula man, Roland Maw, was an unpopular choice with some legislators. Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, and Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, questioned his appointment and what it would mean for non-commercial access to fish.
Maw, a retired commercial fisherman and former executive director of a commercial fishing advocacy group, resigned the appointment and is currently facing an investigation in Montana over questions of his residency in that state and in Alaska.
Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said in February that he was happy to hear that Ruffner had applied.
“I am very excited that Gov. Walker recognizes the value in someone from the Central Peninsula being seriously considered for the Board of Fisheries and hope a viable candidate rises to the top and is seriously considered by the Legislature,” he said.
Ruffner said he’d heard from a lot of people that the board needed to maintain a balance between all user groups in the fisheries that it managed.
“I’m fully aware of that and I’m just going to do what’s in the best interest of Alaskans,” he said.
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens.