Howard Delo

I had the privilege of attending the Safari Club International, Alaska Chapter, banquet this past Saturday evening as one of three Mat-Su Borough representatives of the borough’s Fish and Wildlife Commission. My attendance was related to the presentation of the Governor’s Conservationist of the Year award to one of our own. The recipient received the trophy-style award directly from the Governor.

In announcing the award, the Governor read excerpts from the nomination materials submitted earlier in the year. The following quotes are a shortened version of the original written nomination.

“Larry Engel, who resides in Palmer with his wife, Nancy, has been active in natural resource management around Cook Inlet for almost 60 years. Larry began his career with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Palmer in 1960. He worked on the Kenai Peninsula from 1964 until 1972, where he was involved in establishing the Soldotna Fish and Game office. Prior to that time there was no ADF&G office in Soldotna.”

Continuing, “Larry returned to the Palmer office in 1972 and worked as the Sport Fish Division Northern District Area Manager until his retirement from Fish and Game in 1992. As part of that work, he was involved in working with the Recreational Rivers Act, which, among other things, helped to preserve public lands along the rivers and maintain them in public ownership. For his efforts here and in other habitat-related work, Larry was recognized by ADF&G with various habitat protection awards during his employment.

Shortly after retiring from Fish and Game, Larry was appointed to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, where he served for nine years. During his first three-year term, Larry was elected Chairman of the Board by his fellow board members.

During his time on the board, Larry made some major changes to how fisheries management in Cook Inlet and statewide was prosecuted. Larry was involved in the development of almost all the various Cook Inlet fisheries management plans.

Larry went on to direct and be involved with the development of the Sustainable Salmon Fisheries Policy while on the board. This is, arguably, the most important regulation governing fisheries management in Alaska. Larry also made major changes in developing the Kenai River Personal Use dipnet fishery into how it is currently being managed.”

The nomination further explained, “After leaving the board, Larry spent the next few years promoting fishing, hunting, trapping, and habitat concerns, with major emphasis on fisheries and their habitat requirements, as a citizen of the Mat-Su. During this time, Larry saw the need to get more local involvement in the fisheries management arena. Working with others, he helped to get the Matanuska-Susitna Borough more actively involved in fisheries management in Cook Inlet.

Larry was one of the original members of what was then called: “The Mayor’s Sportsmen’s Blue-Ribbon Commission.” The group later evolved into its current structure and name, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, and is a recognized entity of the Mat-Su Borough government.”

The Governor continued, “One of Larry’s major accomplishments as a MSBFWC member was to formulate a plan for managing Cook Inlet commercial salmon driftnet fisheries. Under Larry’s approach, commercial driftnet fishing was to be more restricted in the center of the inlet, where mixed stocks of both Central and Northern District salmon traveled (the Conservation Corridor) while expanding the area along the eastern side of the inlet to about 10 miles offshore and allowing more fishing time there. When this approach is used as intended, interception of northern-bound salmon stocks is minimized in the travel corridor (Conservation Corridor) up the center of Cook Inlet and catches of Kenai and Kasilof fish are maximized by harvesting them closer to the mouths of their natal streams.”

Over the years, Larry has been the main commission-representative presenter to groups of state legislators, both in the Valley and in Juneau, about the condition of salmon stocks returning to the Mat-Su. He has given this same education to Borough Assembly and employees and did a “command performance” for Governor Walker during a meeting a few years ago.

Concluding, “Larry has spent almost 60 years in both public service and private volunteering to work with the fish and wildlife concerns of the state and of the Mat-Su and addressing habitat protection or reclamation issues as they have developed.”

It was appropriate and long overdue that Larry receive this well-deserved recognition for a lifetime of looking out for our fisheries resources here in the Valley. Larry didn’t mind when I teased him about dusting the trophy!

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