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Controversial Fish Board nominee Roland Maw withdraws from consideration

  • Author: Pat Forgey
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published February 20, 2015

JUNEAU -- Kenai River fish wars have claimed another Fish Board nominee, this time Roland Maw, named to the board by Gov. Bill Walker. Maw withdrew his name from consideration Friday after facing opposition.

He is former executive director of a commercial fishing group, the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, and a retired drift gillnet fisherman.

In 2013, an Alaska Board of Fisheries member, Vince Webster, was rejected for reappointment by the Legislature after sportfishing groups complained. He was a commercial setnet fisherman.

Fish politics can cross party lines, and did so this year with liberal Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, and conservative Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, both questioning Maw's appointment -- and what it would mean to their constituents' access to fish.

"The only thing you can get those boys to agree on is fish," said House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, referring to Maw's odd-couple opponents.

Maw notified Walker on Friday morning of his decision to withdraw, providing a terse, handwritten statement that provided no explanation for his action. He did not return calls later in the day.

Walker spokesperson Grace Jang said she could only speculate on his reasons and declined to do so.

But several legislators said they doubted he could win over a majority of 60 legislators needed for confirmation because of opposition to stances he'd taken in fish allocation battles.

Further, rumors about residency issues, denied by Maw, could have further eroded his support.

At a public hearing Monday, Stoltze grilled Maw about litigation in which he was involved that Stoltze said invited federal officials into Alaska fish politics.

And Gara said he had concerns he wanted addressed about allegations that Maw supported reductions in the personal-use fishery.

"My biggest concern, but I also needed to substantiate it before I voted, was what I heard about his work to cut back the number of fish Alaskans could keep in the personal-use fishery on the Kenai," Gara said.

Gara said he was looking forward to learning more about those issues at House confirmation hearings that now will not happen.

"Any proposal to radically scale back what any individual Alaskan, who might not have very much money, can keep and put in their freezer really concerns me," he said.

Stoltze had similar concerns about the personal-use fishery, as well as how forthcoming Maw had been in a Senate hearing in which he had participated.

Stoltze said that a suit brought by the group Maw once headed criticized state management of the Cook Inlet fishery, something he said Maw appeared reluctant to acknowledge his involvement in.

Maw denied publicly during the hearing that the case invited federal management or "overreach" in Alaska fisheries.

"I had hoped Mr. Maw would talk about his involvement," Stoltze said. "I read the court case. It began 'I, Roland Maw, attest …'

"It would seem there would be a little more familiarity with a suit he actually filed. I'm not going to try to keep fishing where there's nobody biting," Stoltze said in frustration.

The document to which Stoltze referred, and which he provided to Alaska Dispatch News, appears to show that Maw was technically correct.

It begins: "I, Dr. Roland Maw, hereby declare as follows: I am over 18 years of age and not a party to this action."

The legal declaration by Maw offers his expertise in his group's litigation as a witness who participated in the fishery for 32 years, not as a plaintiff himself.

Speaker Chenault said he had been planning to vote to confirm Maw to the regulatory board but was unsure whether Maw could muster adequate support. He said he knew Maw from living on the Kenai Peninsula and through Maw's involvement in science and fisheries.

"I don't know why he withdrew. I personally like to see biologists and folks with credentials like that on the board that makes those decisions," Chenault said.

Maw addressed his residency issues in an earlier interview, saying he'd had an Alaska driver's license since the 1970s but hadn't always been a legal resident.

But since retiring as a professor, he has lived in Alaska and qualified for a Permanent Fund dividend every year.

"I retired in 2001 and we moved here in June of that year or 2000, I can't remember the exact year, but whenever that qualifying period was over I've had one (PFD) since then," he said.

Maw said he and his wife own a house in Montana, where his wife lives for health reasons. She does not get a PFD, he said.

Maw had earlier sought appointment as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, but instead the combined boards recommended acting commissioner Sam Cotten for the post.

But a decision by the Board of Fisheries, one of the components of the larger group making the commissioner appointment recommendation, came under criticism because the board declined to even interview Maw. When Gov. Bill Walker criticized board chair Karl Johnstone and told him he would not be reappointed when his term ended soon, Johnstone resigned.

Walker then appointed Maw to the board position held by Johnstone, but that appointment came under fire from sport fishermen who felt Maw was too closely allied with the commercial fishermen.

A Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for Friday was canceled after Maw's withdrawal.

Legislative leaders say there was also confusion over which position Maw had been appointed to, the full term or the soon-to-end partial term, which could have further clouded the confirmation process.

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