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Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Ah, the memories…

REP. STUTES FLIP-FLOPS ON FISH BOARD PICK

It’s possible that retired Judge Karl Johnstone will have a rough confirmation hearing process in House Fisheries Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Louise Stutes. She doesn’t like him. She said so. She’ll be loaded for bear during his hearing on Thursday.

“I will be opposing his confirmation. Without getting into too much detail, the primary reason for my opposition is that he would destroy any semblance of the current balance on the board. During his time on the board from 2008-2015, Mr. Johnstone established a reputation for anti-commercial fishing views. Inverse to last year’s outcry from the sport fishing sector regarding the appointment of our own Duncan Fields, Mr. Johnstone would represent a swing too far in the opposite direction. Commercial fishermen across the state should be very concerned with the shift he would represent for the board,” she wrote this week.

This is a tit-for-tat attack, according to what she has written.

[Read: Board of Fish appointment cuts out anglers, dipnetters]

But Stutes is a study in contradictions. Just four years ago, she cosponsored a legislative citation that lauded Johnstone’s seven-year service on the Board of Fisheries, in which she and her legislative colleagues called him “invaluable,” the “gold standard of public service.”

In fact, the citation says he was the “most well-prepared member of the board.” He read through thousands of papers, and was interested in all opinions.

What has changed in four years?

Johnstone resigned from the board when former Gov. Bill Walker indicated he didn’t intend to reappoint him, so he has no record to attack since the day Stutes signed the citation:

Normally the balance of the board is three commercial, three sports, and one subsistence. Johnstone was appointed by Gov. Michael Dunleavy for the sport fisheries seat.

The House Fisheries Committee meets Thursday at 10 am. You can watch it on legislative TV here.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comment

  • “Normally the balance of the board is three commercial, three sports, and one subsistence.”

    hardly a “balance.” commercial interests have dominated the BOF since its inception. if we’re to “balance” the board to the degree that is reflective of the proportional annual harvest of fish, commercial folks would have something like 6 and 7/8th seats. something to keep in mind when talking about “balance” is that the decisions made by and for commercial interests are oftentimes done at the expense of other user interests. for example, if you’ve got several years of consecutive poor runs on a predominantly subsistence oriented river, holding commercial openers during said crappy season(s) a) adds insult to injury directly onto the resource itself (which is hardly congruent with the sustained yield principle) and b) exacerbates the hardships felt by subsistence users. so in other words, even if there is a “balance” as you’ve suggested, that doesn’t necessarily translate to an equitable (and proportional) allocation of the resource. furthermore, subsistence is a priority in the state of AK as you know. although our stance on it doesn’t mirror the fed position, it is prioritized (in writing anyways) over ALL other uses. and the appointments and decisions made should reflect that fact.

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