Last weekend the Alaska Legislature voted against the confirmation of Soldotna resident Robert Ruffner for a seat on the Board of Fisheries. Robert is well respected locally, in-state and nationally for his work on habitat and clean water issues and their relationship to providing good salmon rearing conditions. He is also a resource user that participates in the sport and personal use fisheries. With his scientific background he was probably the best qualified applicant this position has seen in a long time.
So what went wrong? Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) decided they would not be able to wield their power and influence over the Board of Fisheries (BOF) process as well if Robert was a sitting member of the Board.
So what were they so afraid of? Two major things; first, they understood Robert’s character and knew he had too much integrity to fall victim to their enticements or influence peddling. Second, they cannot stand the thought of having someone on the Board that has an in-depth knowledge about the Kenai River and offshore fishery issues. It would mean that they could no longer get by with providing a naïve Board with false, misleading or cherry picked data to win approval on important issues vital to successfully furthering their agenda.
So what is their agenda? Plain and simple, KRSA is a guide industry lobbying organization that has a single goal of eliminating commercial fishing in Cook Inlet so that the tourism and guide industries can prosper and they don’t care who they hurt along the way, whether it is a distinguished and well respected local candidate for the BOF or whether it is struggling commercial fishing families, the commercial fishing industry and associated local jobs or whether it is mom and pop private anglers that just want to spend an enjoyable day out fishing. None of this matters to them if they perceive someone is not supportive of their agenda. Their involvement in the Ban Set-net Initiative, along with another Bob Penney sister organization, is another prime example of their allocative greed at the ultimate expense of some of our neighbors and friends.
How did they do it? They spent a great deal of money and manpower with their lobbying team trolling the halls of the capital spreading lies and misinformation about Robert to all of the legislators claiming that Robert was not a true sport fisherman but instead had strong ties to the commercial fishing industry. Then, when Robert went to Juneau himself to dispel these claims KRSA, along with their sister organizations, started forwarding the notion that any South-central representative on the Board had to come from Anchorage since it had the biggest population base of resource users. They were desperate to do anything to keep a Soldotna/Kenai representative off of the Board. It should also be mentioned here that another local organization, Kenai River Professional Guide’s Association, joined them in this effort keep Robert off of the Board.
It is time for our community to cut ties with KRSA. We should not accept their unethical behavior or lack of compassion for other respectable members of our community. The manner in which they wield their power and influence against our community to achieve their goals are no longer acceptable. It is time for all municipal leaders, legislators and State Fish and Game personnel to stop attending their events like the Kenai Classic. It is time for the Chamber of Commerce, the Hospital Board, and other area businesses to also withdraw their financial or volunteer support of any and all KRSA events.
When we see so many unethical examples of how our local support and volunteering on behalf of KRSA is used against our community and members of our community it is time to put a stop to it. They have proven themselves too divisive and corrosive in a community like ours that values a diversified economy and needs to foster cooperation and respect for the good of all concerned.
Dwight Kramer of Kenai is a “Joe Fisherman” private sport angler.