[env-trinity] Sacramento Bee 2 26 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Feb 26 14:22:19 PST 2009

Senators delay confirmation of California Fish and Game chief

Sacramento Bee - 2/26/09

By Matt Weiser 

State senators Wednesday postponed the confirmation of Fish and Game
Director Donald Koch, saying a hearing on the matter raised bigger issues
about the department itself - and how regulators are managing California's
beleaguered environment.


The Senate Rules Committee instead wants to question Koch's boss, Natural
Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman, about whether the Schwarzenegger
administration is truly committed to protecting the state's waterways and
fish species.


"People respect you, and rightfully so," committee Chairman Darrell
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, told Koch. "But it's not just about you. It's about
the direction of the department." 


Koch was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in April 2008. A 30-year
veteran of the department, Koch is former director of the Fish and Game's
North Coast region and came out of retirement to accept its top position.


"Senator Steinberg and Secretary Chrisman have a great relationship, and we
look forward to talking in the next few weeks," said Sandy Cooney, spokesman
for the state's Natural Resources Agency.


The decision to put off Koch's confirmation came after a three-hour hearing
in which little direct opposition emerged to Koch's appointment. In fact,
more than a dozen witnesses spoke in his favor.


"The association believes that with Mr. Koch, the department will be in very
good hands," said Anthony Thomas, vice president of government affairs for
the California Forestry Association.


But many also raised concerns about whether Koch, even with the best
intentions, would be able to do right by the state's environment.

Koch steps into the Fish and Game spotlight amid great turmoil in the
department and throughout the state.


Several witnesses complained the department has failed to fulfill its
law-enforcement responsibilities, whether by not hiring enough game wardens
or by not asserting its permit authority over matters such as timber
harvesting and stream alterations.


Of particular concern to some was the department's recent refusal to halt
recreational suction-dredge mining, which the department's own scientists
assert damages fish habitat. Another raised by several witnesses is
inadequate protection of endangered salmon populations.


Few speakers blamed Koch for these problems. But they said the department
has been starved of the money and authority it needs to carry out its

"It's tragic our state professes to be a leader in the 'green' movement, but
will not hire or maintain enough staffing to protect our natural resources,"
said Jerry Karnow, a game warden and legislative liaison to the California
Fish and Game Wardens Association. "At this time, the wardens association
will not offer an endorsement of any director appointed by this governor."


Karnow noted the department employs only about 220 field-level game wardens
to police wildlife crimes statewide. And last week, more than 90 of them got
layoff notices as part of the administration's effort to balance the state


Whether those layoffs go forward remains unclear.

"You may have a good man in a bad department," said Zeke Grader, executive
director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.


Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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