Fish board needs a thoughtful nomination process

  • Thursday, March 5, 2015 4:15pm
  • Opinion

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of Board of Fisheries politics.

We certainly were disappointed to learn last week that Roland Maw had withdrawn from consideration for a seat on the fish board, and even more concerned when we learned that an investigation is underway regarding residency concerns in Alaska and Montana. It indicates to us that Maw’s appointment was a knee-jerk reaction, and not a well thought-out, thoroughly vetted selection to a board in need of more rational decision making.

We’re also concerned about comments from some lawmakers regarding support in the Legislature for Maw’s nomination. While Maw was reported to have a fair amount of public support, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported that Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said many legislators with heavy dipnetting and sportfishing constituencies would have been reluctant to confirm Maw, a commercial fishing advocate.

The implication clearly is that lawmakers will play a significant role in determining the management philosophy of the Board of Fisheries.

While Maw’s withdrawal puts the debate on the back burner for the time being, Gov. Bill Walker still needs to make two fish board appointments in the coming weeks, and both will need legislative confirmation. More than a dozen people have thrown their hats in the ring, including outgoing Kenai Watershed Forum Executive Director Robert Ruffner, and area private angling advocate Dwight Kramer. Kramer subsequently has written a letter of support for Ruffner.

The governor’s goal with Maw’s appointment appears to have been to give the fish board a much-needed shake-up. As it has been operating, at least for Cook Inlet issues, the board is no longer accessible to the people most impacted by its decisions.

We still think a shake-up is in order, and we still think the Kenai Peninsula deserves a voice on the board. But we expect that, now that the initial buzz over resignations has simmered down, the governor will engage in a more thoughtful, thorough nomination process that will restore balance, access and transparency to the board.

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