Critics see opportunities with Rossi resignation

JUNEAU — Critics of Corey Rossi’s appointment two years ago to head Alaska’s Division of Wildlife Conservation see an opportunity for change within the division with his sudden departure.

Rossi resigned Thursday, the same day Alaska State Troopers announced that he was charged with 12 hunting violations. The charges stem from 2008, when Rossi was a licensed assistant big game guide, troopers said.

“The fervent hope of my organization is that the state will take this as an opportunity to revamp their approach to wildlife management to include all Alaskans and not just the trophy hunting community,” said John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.

Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell will name a permanent replacement for Rossi. Meanwhile, Dale Rabe has been named interim head of the division.

Rossi was a controversial pick to head the division, with critics, including former employees of the Department of Fish and Game, saying he lacked the educational background and training for the job.

Wildlife advocates considered him too sympathetic to hunters, sometimes at the expense of other interests.

Then-Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd defended his pick, saying Rossi was selected for his skills and relationships with leaders at the department. Lloyd retired months later, after being charged with driving under the influence. He later pleaded guilty and received a sentence that included three days in jail.

Theresa Fiorino, Alaska representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said the resignation of Rossi was a “good day for wildlife in Alaska.” She called his 2010 appointment a political move, and said she hoped there would be a national search for a new director.

Alaska State Troopers said Rossi was charged with one count of permit hunt report violation, three counts of making false statements on a black bear sealing certificate, two counts of unsworn falsification, one count of unlawful possession of an illegally taken bear, and five counts of unlawful acts by an assistant big game guide.

Rossi could not immediately be reached for comment.

Campbell, in a prepared statement, said she learned that charges were likely to be filed against Rossi and flew to Anchorage Wednesday to discuss the matter with him. He resigned the following day.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation for everyone involved,” Campbell told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

Fish and Game spokeswoman Nancy Long said Rossi’s resignation letter is a personnel record that can’t be released.

Rossi was first hired at Fish and Game in January 2009 for a newly created position of assistant commissioner for abundance management, overseeing the state’s predator control program. His resume for the director’s job listed former Gov. Sarah Palin’s parents as his top reference.

Rossi employed Palin’s parents for 14 years trapping nuisance animals when Rossi worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the former governor’s mother, Sally Heath, told the AP in 2010.

© 2012 The Associated Press

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