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Koenings Resigns as Fish and Wildlife Agency Director

by Allen Thomas
The Columbian, December 1, 2008

Jeff Koenings, the longest serving director in the history of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is resigning effective Dec. 11.

Koenings, 61, announced his resignation on Monday. He has held the job since January 1999.

"I've accomplished much of what I said I would do when I became director 10 years ago,'' Koenings said. "I'm proud of the progress we've made.''

Koenings recently chaired negotiations on the new, 10-year chinook harvest agreement under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, requiring British Columbia and Alaska to reduce their catch of Washington chinook by a million fish in the next decade.

Koenings' resignation sparked a mixed reaction among sport and commercial fishing interests in the lower Columbia River area.

"This is the first big change in Washington to start to do good for our resources,'' said Gary Loomis of Woodland, founder of the Pacific Northwest section of the Coastal Conservation Association.

Koenings was "way too commercial, he's always leaned toward the commercial fishermen,'' Loomis added.

Les Clark of Chinook, head of the Northwest Gillnetters Association, said Koenings did a "masterful job'' in the U.S.-Canada salmon treaty negotiations.

Clark said a big battle between sport and commercial interests appears on the horizon for 2009.

"The sports (fishermen) are pushing to push the commercials off the river,'' Clark said. "It's getting so political, and, by law, Koenings has to take care of both fisheries. He might have not wanted to get in the middle of a fish fight.''

Liz Hamilton executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, called Koenings' departure the end of an era.

"It looks we're starting a new, fresh, modern approach to conservation and selective fisheries,'' Hamilton said.

She added that Koenings' stye of fish management no longer works in a time of fewer fish and more constraints under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The nine-member state Fish and Wildlife Commision released a statement saying it was "extremely grateful to Dr. Koenings for his service and contributions.''

Phil Anderson, deputy director of the agency for 18 months, will serve as interim director.

A nationwide search for a new director will begin in January.

Allen Thomas
Koenings Resigns as Fish and Wildlife Agency Director
The Columbian, December 1, 2008

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