Natives Bash Alaska Fish and Game Chief

ICTMN Staff
12/30/10

A Native group criticized Gov. Sean Parnell's appointment to head Alaska's Fish and Game Department, charging Cora Campbell as underqualified and partial to commercial fishing, reported Alaska Daily News.

Alaska Native Brotherhood's Subsistence Committee chair Bob Loescher called Campbell, 31, too young, and chided her failure to reach out to Alaska's Native population. Campbell said she hopes to meet with the Alaska Native Brotherhood to address their concerns.

Parnell designated Campbell to head Fish and Game last week, though her appointment awaits approval by the legislature. She has served as acting commissioner since Dec. 1, when Denby Lloyd retired.

Both the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Kodiak, Alaska, politicians question whether Campbell's previous experience is substantial for her new position.

Campbell grew up in the seaport of Petersburg, working on her father's fishing boat. She went on to serve as the fisheries adviser for former Gov. Sarah Palin in commercial fishing as an executive director of a regional fishing association. Her career path also includes service with a number of fisheries management organizations.

Campbell is not a research biologist or trained in fisheries or wildlife management, whereas her predecessor Lloyd's first job with ADF&G was doing test fisheries in 1974.

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, worries about Campbell's lack of a formal science background, reported the Kodiak Daily Mirror. He said her decisions might rely more on politics than science.

“I thought (previous commissioner Denby Lloyd) was a great example,” he told the Kodiak Daily Mirror. “He was in charge of the (fish and game) office here, he knew how to deal with other scientists and he knew when they were blowing smoke. I’m just afraid that having a commissioner without that experience and without that knowledge and without that academic background could be a little dangerous for us.”

In addition to her expertise, Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, who served as fisheries adviser under Gov. Frank Murkowski, raised concerns about Campbell’s competence to lead a major state department.

“I told Cora and I told the governor that I think her management experience is her biggest stumbling block,” he said to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. “She’s a very intelligent young lady, but I’m not sure she has the experience to manage 1,700 people.”

Parnell's selection process also faces scrutiny -- Parnell voiced his preference for Campbell from the start, and the board only saw two names of applicants: Campbell and Ron Somerville, a former board chairman.

On the other side of the fence, the fisheries umbrella group United Fisherman of Alaska (UFA), representing 38 commercial fishing groups, voted unanimously to endorse Campbell's nomination.

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