Outdoors

A few faces stand out from the crowd in 2014

One of the joys of my job is having the opportunity to meet interesting people doing fun things.

Some of them I met for the first time this year; others were people I had talked with before.

In June, I had the chance to meet Chuck Custer aboard his charter fishing boat, Freedom. Working as the crew were Cristian Ibarra and Peter Samuelson. The three of them made sure the dozen anglers on board that warm, sunny day had a chance to get some salmon and have a good time doing so.

When the action slowed, Custer shared stories as he walked around the deck. Ibarra and Samuelson seemed to know what you needed before you knew you needed it.

The three of them made it a great trip, even though the fishing was less than stellar.

Two months later, I got to spend part of the day floating down the Elwha River between the former dam sites. One of the people in my raft was Shannon Brunle of the National Parks Conservation Association. I also had the chance to talk again with Robert Elofson of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

While they had different perspectives, they shared the same excitement for the rebirth of the Elwha as an undammed river. It was easy to understand, and feel, their passion for the dam-removal project.

But this year, a few other folks stand out in my mind and are worthy of a mention.

After six years as the director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Phil Anderson is stepping down. He is retiring after 20 years with the department.

Anyone who serves as the head of an agency like Fish and Wildlife is a lightning rod for reaction to nearly every decision made. If Anderson were to choose Option A, he would get an earful from supporters of Option B. We’ve seen that in the debates over Puget Sound crab allocation between recreational and commercial fishermen and the debate over netting salmon in the Columbia River.

Compounding the challenges Anderson faced is the state’s relationship with tribal co-managers. This could be adversarial, such as during the annual setting of salmon fishing seasons, or cooperative, such as when the Quinault Indian Tribe in recent seasons gave up some of its share of razor clams to allow more digging by nontribal members.

Anderson’s tenure includes achievements such as increasing fishing opportunities for hatchery fish and guiding the department through the budget crisis that saw the loss of scores of jobs. He is also leaving the department when internal surveys show staff morale is low.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission continues to search for a replacement.

It is hard to argue the success Billy Frank Jr. had in representing his constituents as chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for more than 30 years before his death in May at the age of 83.

Frank was in the middle of the Indian Fish Wars of the 1960s and ’70s that led to the Boldt decision in 1974, which upheld the tribes’ treaty rights to harvest fish, hunt and gather shellfish.

While Frank fought vehemently to protect those tribal rights, he also guided the commission in spending millions on habitat protection and restoration. Look at the restoration work on Ohop Creek as an example of a tribal-led project that will benefit all.

Frank has been succeeded by Lorraine Loomis of the Swinomish Indian Tribe.

Finally, Amy Mann deserves far more than a tip of the cap.

For 10 years, she has helped the hikers in the South Sound find a place to go each week as the author of The News Tribune’s “Hike of the Week” feature. Amy told us a few months ago that she felt it was time to step down, and we sadly accepted her decision.

Amy has been a delight to work with. When we started the Adventure section in 2004, I don’t think Amy or I realized how popular the hiking feature would prove.

As her editor, I can say Amy was someone who never pushed the deadline envelope. She would produce her stories in batches, keeping us ready to go months in advance. It was a trait I always appreciated.

We have come up with a plan to continue the hiking feature, but I will miss having the opportunity to work with and talk to Amy.

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