Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 5:46 PM on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ADF&G leader wins over some ex-critics

By Jonathan Grass
Morris News Service - Alaska


Photo from the Department of Fish and Game website

Acting Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell

JUNEAU — 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 has worked in the fishing industry since the early 1990s. She has fished commercially for salmon, herring and crab, and managed shore operations for a diversified fishing business, according to her biography on the Fish and Game website. She has worked in state and federal fishery and regulatory forums, served as executive director of a regional fishing association with an emphasis on economic development and cooperative research, supervised a public outreach program focusing on the federal subsistence process, and served on numerous boards and committees, including the advisory panels to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the North Pacific Research Board.

As commissioner, Campbell represents the state of Alaska on numerous bodies, including the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which oversees commercial and sport fisheries in federal waters off Alaska, and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, which addresses effects and recovery from the 1989 oil spill.

She is a lifelong Alaskan and a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University. She lives in Juneau with her husband and two children.

Jonathan Grass is a reporter for the Juneau Empire.