Wrangell’s Fish and Game office due to close

Alaska wildlife troopers Kyle Freeberg (left) and Cody Lister (right) tell hunters in Wrangell what they need to know about the nuanced antler restrictions for the month-long moose hunt. (Photo by June Leffler/ KSTK)

The Southeast Alaska city of Wrangell stands to lose its Department of Fish and Game office due to 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 Fish and Game 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.

He also sits on Wrangell’s assembly. He says that, of course, a lot can be done online. But having Fish and Game representatives in town is an important resource in a town 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 special assistant to the commissioner at ADFG. “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.”

All field projects, like research on the Stikine River and fish counting in the summer will continue just the same.

Green says 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 moves another to Petersburg. 

Wrangell City Mayor Steve Prysunka says 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 his Rep. Dan Ortiz. The independent Ketchikan lawmaker told KSTK he’ll advocate for the small office when the Alaska Legislature convenes in Juneau next month.

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