The Southeast city of Wrangell stands to lose its Alaska Department of Fish and Game office because of cost-cutting under Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget. Local officials aren’t taking the news lying down.
The potential closure of Wrangell’s tiny ADF&G office was sore news to David Powell.
“I go to that office say about eight to 10 times a year,” said Powell, an avid sportsman who picks up his elk and moose tags from the local office.
Powell also sits on Wrangell’s assembly. He said, of course, a lot can be done online. But having ADF&G representatives in town is an important resource where just about everyone hunts and fishes and needs to keep up on the rules.
“I know ignorance is no excuse, but it would be a lot easier to go up there and have the questions answered that we have, rather than trying to find them online,” Powell said.
No other Fish and Game office is on the governor’s chopping block. A budget document says it’ll save around $70,000 in general fund spending.
Agency officials defended the move.
“There are many communities in Alaska that don’t have a Fish and Game office,” said Rick Green, a top ADF&G official appointed by Gov. Dunleavy.
“The commissioner is confident we can continue to effectively manage the fish, wildlife and aquatic plants, which is our charter, and doesn’t see not having that office as getting in the way,” Green said.
All field projects, like research on the Stikine River and fish counting in the summer, will continue just the same.
Green said few commercial fishing permits have been issued out of the Wrangell office. And, any requests for information are just a phone call or internet search away.
Closing the office sheds one local job and it moves another job to Petersburg.
Wrangell City Mayor Steve Prysunka said local government wasn’t consulted.
“We are expected to just accept this, that this is all right. Well, it’s not all right,” Prysunka said. “I don’t accept it, and I won’t accept it, and I’m mad as hell about it.”
Wrangell has lost a number of state offices over the years. It used to have an Office of Children’s Services worker and a state public health nurse. Those positions have been cut or moved out of town.
“And now you’re telling me Fish and Game is going to be relocated to Petersburg. We are not an insignificant community,” Prysunka said.
Prysunka has taken up the issue with Rep. Dan Ortiz. The independent Ketchikan lawmaker told KSTK he’ll advocate for the small office when the legislature convenes in Juneau next month.