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My turn: Give new Fish and Game commissioner a chance

Posted: Thursday, April 05, 2007

There has been considerable public debate lately about the selection and eventual appointment of Denby Lloyd as acting commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Ken Taylor as deputy commissioner.

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Articles have been written accusing the joint boards, the Board of Game and Board of Fisheries, of illegally submitting only one name for the commissioner's job, accusing the administration of conspiring to get Lloyd confirmed among every other form of political buffoonery possible.

Gov. Sarah Palin, exercising her right as governor, chose to select someone new. The joint boards utilized the process required by law and advertised, interviewed and submitted a name for Palin's consideration. Some contend that submitting only one name to the governor is illegal. Nevertheless, the attorney general's office has consistently advised that the required list of qualified persons does not have to consist of two or more names.

The key phrase is "qualified candidates." The applications of all eight candidates were carefully reviewed and three candidates were interviewed as the most qualified. Unfortunately, only one candidate met the legal requirement that "each" board must agree to submit "each" name. Clearly the unanimous vote by both boards to submit Lloyd's name was an indication that he was qualified.

One article states that the appointment of Lloyd was designed by the commercial fisheries interests and shuffled past a "wimpy" Board of Game. Somehow the author had forgotten that both boards sent letters to Palin requesting that she retain McKie Campbell as commissioner. Not much of a conspiracy.

After the March Board of Game meeting in Anchorage, the commissioner and governor were officially requested to use whatever means possible to help the board meet its predator population objectives in the five critical predator control areas in the state. Poor weather conditions and high gas prices had discouraged many of the permittees. Lloyd, I assume in consultation with the governor's office, announced he would do precisely what the board asked. Yes, the commissioner chose to immediately implement an incentive program to help the permittees but he also announced the department would look seriously at using helicopters to help meet those objectives in the five specific control areas.

It's funny, when the commissioner agrees to do precisely what the intensive management groups have advocated, the commissioner is accused of "a desperate political move" to get confirmed. Although you might criticize the use of financial incentives and the beneficial timing of the incentives, I view this and the potential use of helicopters to keep these programs on track as a sincere attempt to provide the support that has long been missing. Although progress is being made, virtually all of the board members have agreed that these types of predator management programs cannot succeed without strong financial and administrative support from the department.

I have worked closely with Lloyd and Taylor through the years, and they have always tackled their respective jobs with integrity and professionalism. I suggest a unique solution - that we judge both based on performance. If they don't perform and support the governor, it's fair to ask for some changes.

Another article implies that Kristy Tibbles, the present executive director for the Board of Game, was involved in some conspiracy to muscle Lloyd through the selection process. Tibbles' husband is chief of staff for Palin, and thus, Tibbles voluntarily removed herself from all but the most mundane administrative duties. Jim Marcotte, director of the Board Support Section, provided most of the joint board support. There is no evidence of Tibbles' involvement.

Many of the present critics of the Fish and Game commissioner and deputy commissioner are strong advocates for proactive fisheries and wildlife management. Nevertheless, I don't think they are listening. The governor, the Board of Game members and the department appointees are rising to the challenge. Like the Alaska Outdoor Council did the other week when it endorsed Lloyd for commissioner, give them a chance. I am.

• Ron Somerville worked 24 years with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He is retired and a member of the Board of Game.



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