FAIRBANKS - Five years of retirement convinced former Fairbanks state wildlife biologist Pat Valkenburg that he needed to go back to work for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Valkenburg, 58, was named deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Wednesday, reuniting him with the agency he spent 26 years working for as a biologist and research coordinator before retiring in 2003 to start his own wildlife management consulting business.
"Since I retired, I've done contract work for three Canadian provinces and I've also done some contract work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," Valkenburg said in a phone interview on Wednesday from his Fairbanks home. "Being exposed to all those other agencies made me realize what a top-notch organization the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is. It's the premier conservation agency in the world.
"I don't need this job," he said. "I'm doing this job because I want to do it."
As deputy commissioner, Valkenburg will oversee the department's functions related to wildlife, habitat, subsistence, and a variety of issues that require state and federal coordination, according to a press release issued by Commissioner Denby Lloyd's office.
In addition to Valkenburg's appointment, Lloyd also announced the creation of a new position called Assistant Commissioner for Abundance Management. Filling that position will be Corey Rossi, who will move over to the state from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rossi will focus on abundance-based, and active management planning and implementation for game, as well as ways to enhance the state's sport fish populations, according Lloyd.
The hirings of Valkenburg and Rossi "reflect a renewed emphasis to expand the department's abundance-based wildlife management programs," the commissioner said. The department will receive about $1 million next year "to better inventory and manage key populations, especially those that are important for human use," Lloyd said.
Valkenburg, who considers himself "a conservationist in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt," is a strong proponent of predator control and intensive management, a state law that requires the Department of Fish and Game to manage certain game populations important for human harvest for abundance. The state has struggled with intensive management because it lacks the necessary biological information to justify it in many areas.
"We need to get stability and predictability into these intensive management programs," Valkenburg said.
Valkenburg is looking forward to working with Gov. Sarah Palin, who has been supportive of predator control and active wildlife management during her first two years in office.
"Sarah Palin shows every indication of being the most supportive governor for professional wildlife management since Jay Hammond," Valkenburg said.
"She's appointed good people and allowed them to do their job without political interference."
An experienced pilot, trapper and hunter, Valkenburg has specialized in wildlife survey flying, population estimates and carrying capacity analysis for key wildlife populations. He earned his bachelor's degree in wildlife science from the University of Maine in 1972 and his master's degree in wildlife management from the University of Alaska in 1976
Valkenburg replaces former deputy commissioner Ken Taylor, who retired in July. He will begin his new job on Monday and will be based in Juneau.
Rossi, an assistant big game guide in his off time, has more than 19 years experience in professional wildlife management and currently serves as district supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Wasilla. He will begin his new job as assistant commissioner on Jan. 20.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowery at 459-7587