Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell met with Native leaders last week to discuss her position on various issues, and to attempt to ease concerns about her age and experience which were raised when she was appointed last month.
Campbell met with the Alaska Native Brotherhood Executive and Subsistence committees and outlined some goals for the next several years.
Campbell discussed how she saw her department running, an overview of subsistence responsibilities, ways of increasing trust between the department and constituents, state and federal land management issues, creating sustainable legacy economies and the growing sea otter population in Southeast Alaska.
Campbell’s priorities left a good impression with the group.
“I think a lot of people were taken with her for laying out her platform. Almost immediately what people were talking about was how she would involve Native communities,” said Rosita Worl, a board member of the Subsistence Legal Defense Fund and Alaska Federation of Natives. She said Campbell displayed a broad vision for her role and addressed native and subsistence needs. She added she was especially pleased to hear Campbell bring up the sea otter population, as it can become a threat to subsistence and commercial fishing.
Worl said the meeting was in part to restore trust in the Department of Fish and Game. While that will still take more work, the meeting was a good step in that direction, as Campbell seemed sensitive and open to discussion among those who have had issues with Fish and Game. Worl said the department has too often had adversarial relationships with interest groups, plus there was some discussion at the meeting about existing frustrations with federal subsistence boards.
ANB Grand Camp had previously asked Gov. Sean Parnell to reconsider Campbell’s appointment because of concerns about the 31-year-old commissioner’s youth and lack of experience. However, in a press release, ANB Grand President Richard Jackson said, “I can say conclusively that Commissioner Campbell has put those concerns to rest. While she is still young and may not have 40 years of experience, she more than makes up for that in her willingness to dialogue and reduce the animosity between ADF&G and its constituents. We are encouraged that our concerns will be heard and reflected in policy actions by our new Commissioner.”
Worl agreed and said Campbell seems to have the capabilities, education and experience to do the job. She said addressing Natives on these issues went a long way in demonstrating that.
“You shouldn't hold youth against anyone,” she said.
As far as what the new commissioner needs to do to continue this path and keep doubts at bay, Worl said she must continue working on important issues across the board, as Campbell comes from a commercial fishing background. She said the work must include village needs.
“She needs to alleviate concern about her focus toward commercial fisheries. That’s the first thing,” said Worl. Worl said that while she is “somewhat comforted by her character,” the Alaska Federation of Natives will review her appointment as commissioner.
Campbell was out of her office and could not be reached by press time Monday.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.