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Joe Blum Interview

Note about this audio: Interview ends at 31 minutes.

Interviewer:
OK, this is an interview with Joe Blum, former employee of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, on the question of state land selections and fish and game input into them.

Now, you were, I believe, the chief of the Habitat Section?

Joe Blum:
That's correct.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh, during what period, approximately?

Joe Blum:
'70 to '72. Then I was Deputy Commissioner for part of '72 and '73.

Interviewer:
So, Jim Brooks made you Deputy Commissioner?

Joe Blum:
Yes.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh, OK. What I was most interested in trying to find out from you was, I'm not sure what your participation was in the 77 million acre selection that was made in January of '72. Did you participate in that at all?

Joe Blum:
Yes.

Interviewer:
It's my understanding that the decision to make that selection wasn't made actually until January. It wasn't made immediately after ANCSA was passed. Because I guess there was a drafting mistake or a loophole in ANCSA that allowed that selection?

Joe Blum:
That's correct.

Interviewer:
Now, do you know at what point-- I believe that Chuck Herbert would have gotten in touch with Fish and Game to ask for their input. There was a collaborative agreement between the two departments as far as-- that covered states selections.

Did Chuck Herbert get in touch with-- that would have been Wally Nuremberg was commissioner at that time?

Joe Blum:
He got in touch with-- or we actually got in touch with them. And we were working with the attorney general's office, Dave Jackman. And, you know, it's hard to say who discovered it. But it was discovered and mutually discussed between Jackman, ourselves, and DNR. And the decision was made that we ought to go with it.

Interviewer:
I see. So that decision probably wasn't made until January 7th or 8th, something like that? And the selection was made only a couple of weeks after that. That's my impression, anyway.

Joe Blum:
Yeah, I can't give you the exact dates. But yeah, correct, it was a very short time frame.

Interviewer:
Chuck Herbert-- Chuck Herbert seemed to recall that he got a phone call from Jackman on January 6.

Joe Blum:
Oh, that's fine.

Interviewer:
Mhm. What was the process that went on in Fish and Game at that time, as far as deciding what recommendations to make to D and R for the selections?

Joe Blum:
OK, we-- I don't know if they still do or not, but when I was with the department, we had an annual meeting. And it was always in early January. And it was either in Fairbanks or Anchorage.

And the game division would get together and meet and discuss things that had gone on in the past year, and things they were anticipating going on the next year, the Annual Game Division Meeting.

And this particular year, it was in Fairbanks. And after the discussions with Jackman, the understanding that Fish and Game would be deeply involved, we were at the game division meeting. We took maps to the meeting.

We held some private sessions in people's rooms at night during that meeting, and identified areas that were high priority to the Fish and Game Department. And we prioritized those. And I took those maps and went to Juneau. And sat down with Jackman, and Herbert, and the folks. And we were very much involved in the ultimate state decisions to make the selections.

Interviewer:
Now, do you recall who might have been present at that meeting in Fairbanks, the game division meeting?

Joe Blum:
Oh, boy. Mike Smith, myself, Ron Sommerville. Kicking myself because I can't remember the fellow from Sport fish that might have been there.

Interviewer:
Somebody from sport fish?

Joe Blum:
Yeah, the division director. He was still the division director the last I heard. So he's still there.

Interviewer:
Yeah, as a matter of fact, I may have that in my notes. Ron Sommerville might have mentioned something about him to me.

Joe Blum:
Probably regional supervisors from Fairbanks and Juneau. Or maybe-- maybe the director, maybe not the director. He may have simply said, you guys do it. I believe Smith, myself, and Sommerville.

Interviewer:
The director would have been whom?

Joe Blum:
Boy.

Interviewer:
Can't recall?

Joe Blum:
Yeah, I'm trying to think. Who the heck was the director?

Interviewer:
It's not real important. I just thought if you happened to recall.

Joe Blum:
I cannot remember whether it was-- whether Frank Jones was director at that time, or whether Rauch had taken over. I can't remember.

Interviewer:
Now, do you remember who-- did somebody kind of run that meeting.

Joe Blum:
I did.

Interviewer:
You did. And you said that the fish and game recommendations were prioritized. Did that meeting kind of start with a discussion of what the criteria for priorities would be? I mean, how was that decided on?

The reason I'm asking is that Ron Sommerville gave me the impression that the Department of Fish and Game was already working. I don't know if it had been formalized, but you were working on the Blue Book yet. But I guess a lot of work had already been done on critical habitat.

Joe Blum:
Yeah, they were working on the Blue Book

Interviewer:
And bu again--

Joe Blum:
That was critical habitat work.

Interviewer:
I gather that there was some--

Joe Blum:
Criteria were probably never stated. I know they were never written down. But it was-- what were in people's minds, what the critical areas were by region. And it was based on previous work we'd done on critical habitats and the Blue Book. Ron is correct on that.

Interviewer:
Yeah, what I was wondering about though was that I gather that the Fish and Game attitude was that some of the critical habitat area, where there wasn't a lot of usage, it might be better just to leave them in federal hands because they might be better protected there. And that's to have the states elect them.

So was there mature discussion of that, about which critical habitat areas should be selected?

Joe Blum:
Well, we were generally concerned about who would do a better job of management. But we were very, very much states rightists. So that--

Interviewer:
Well, that was pretty much the environment at the time.

Joe Blum:
--would be in state hands. We should have as much as possible of that state land then selected for Fish and Game purposes. So there may have been discussion of it. But we wanted the full selection made for the state and were more than willing to identify areas for fish and wildlife.

Interviewer:
OK, do you remember-- I'm at an advantage over you here, because I'm sitting here at my desk with a map that shows the September '72 agreement. So I think it shows pretty much all the 77 million acres.

But do you recall some of the areas that were discussed as recommendations to natural resources for selection?

Joe Blum:
No, I don't.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh.

Joe Blum:
We were after big game areas-- more than migratory birds, for example.

Interviewer:
Because the migratory birds would do well under federal management?

Joe Blum:
Yeah, the migratory birds' problems were they're not there that long. They're mainly a federal species. The Feds have basically had a lot of the protect-- we were after protecting habitat and hunting areas so that those species that are considered resident species in [INAUDIBLE]. But can't-- you know, I can't remember.

Interviewer:
Now, you took the map to Juneau and sat down with Herbert and Jackman.

Joe Blum:
Right. I recall that that meeting probably took place on a Saturday.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh. Now he just laid out the Fish and Game position to them?

Joe Blum:
Yeah, they identified areas-- Herbert and his folks identified areas for oil, and gas, and economic development, and that kind of stuff. And we identified them for fish and game.

Interviewer:
I see. Well, there was a meeting here-- I worked in the McKay Building annex in Anchorage. There was a meeting here, in this building, I believe, between Herbert and a lot of people from, I guess, several parts of his department.

Which potential-- I guess the finalized selections were identified. Were you familiar with that meeting? Did you know that that occurred?

Joe Blum:
No, I didn't go to that meeting. The meeting that I was at was definitely in Juneau.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh, and I imagine that that would have been probably before the meeting here in Anchorage? Because it seems to me that one of the people I spoke to suggested that Herbert had already-- that Herbert was kind of representing Fish and Game positions at the meeting here in Anchorage.

Joe Blum:
Yep.

Interviewer:
You're not certain about that?

Joe Blum:
Yeah, but I would guess the meeting in Anchorage came after the meeting we had in Juneau.

Interviewer:
Mhm. Do you remember what the response was at Fish and Game after you became aware of what selections had actually been filed?

Joe Blum:
We were generally pleased. Well you're asking to drag back 11 years ago.

Joe Blum:
Yes, I realize that. Well, we were pleased.

Interviewer:
Do you have some kind of specific recollections about something?

Joe Blum:
Oh, no.

Interviewer:
Hello? Hello? Alaska telephones.

Joe Blum:
Yeah, that's one thing I can remember clear.

Interviewer:
I was going to ask you-- now, you were talking about the Fish and Game response to the selections that were made. You said they were generally pleased with them.

Joe Blum:
We were generally please. We were-- you know, I think we would have been pleased to have gotten any acreage that was primarily selected for fish and wildlife purposes.

Our record with the Department of natural Resources up to that time had not been all that great. And we were excited about being involved in the process. We were happy to get some.

I'm sure we didn't get everything we wanted. We were pleased that the state got an opportunity to at least identify, and get involved, and get in the land selection process. That had been frozen for a good 7 years.

Interviewer:
Now, I believe it was in 1969 that I believe the Fish and Game commissioner then was Augie Reetz.

Joe Blum:
Yep.

Interviewer:
Had signed a memorandum of cooperation with Tom Kelly.

Joe Blum:
Right.

Interviewer:
Which included a proviso for Fish and Game input into the selection process. Although between the '72 selections-- between the signing of that memorandum and the selections in '72, there wasn't much made in the land selections.

Joe Blum:
Correct.

Interviewer:
But even after that memorandum, the relationship between the departments hadn't changed much?

Joe Blum:
The relationship between Augie and Tom was great. But the relationship between the Division of Land and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was not great. And you're correct, there were not many selections made. And certainly, my recollection were none ever considered for Fish and game purposes.

But I want to paint the facts. And that is we weren't getting along well with division of lands. Augie Reetz and Tom Kelly dealt well together. About an equal That was the first time in my knowledge that Fish and Game and DNR had equal political footing within the administration.

Interviewer:
I see.

Joe Blum:
And probably the last time.

Interviewer:
Now, after the selections were made, I don't know at what point it was that negotiations began between the state and the Department of Interior over which selections would be continued, which would be relinquished, and the negotiations that led up to September '72 agreement. Did you participate in those negotiations?

Joe Blum:
I went to DC at least once and met with the Secretary fro Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Nat Reed. And David was there, Jackman.

Interviewer:
Now, this was Assistant Secretary of the Interior.

Joe Blum:
Yeah. For Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Nathaniel Reed.

Interviewer:
Nathaniel Reed.

Joe Blum:
Right.

Interviewer:
And--

Joe Blum:
I can't remember who-- either Chuck Herbert or the Director of Division of Land. It was probably Chuck Herbert, and myself, Nate Jackman. And I can't remember who else was there from the state side. Reed was there. And the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Probably a park service director, though. I can't recall. Reed's office.

Interviewer:
And what was-- well, if the people representing the state were yourself, Jackman, and Herbert, it must have been an awkward time for the Department of Fish and Game. Because that was right at the end of Wally Nuremberg's tenor as commissioner.

Joe Blum:
He was under fire.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh.

Joe Blum:
But on issues entirely different from the one we were dealing with.

Interviewer:
Oh, I wasn't-- did he resign in a difficult situation?

Joe Blum:
I don't think he resigned. I think he was replaced. But I can't remember that. You'd have to ask him.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh, I wasn't aware of that. But it didn't have to deal with this situation?

Joe Blum:
No.

Interviewer:
Was there discussion between yourself, Jackman and Herbert? I guess there must have been, as far as what strategy was going to be made at the meeting?

Joe Blum:
Yeah, but the main strategist would have been Jackman, with us bringing in about third, Herbert, the oil and gas interests second. But I can't remember what the strategies were.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh. Now, was this meeting in Reed's office? Was that the major negotiation that led up to the agreement that was eventually signed? Or do you know if there were other meetings?

Joe Blum:
I'm unaware of other meetings. But I know there had to be. Jackman would be the best source on there.

Interviewer:
Yeah.

Joe Blum:
Can you talk with Dace?

Interviewer:
No, I haven't. I didn't have an easy way of getting in touch with him. Do you know where he is now?

Joe Blum:
One of two places. But the last time I talked with him-- and I haven't talked with him for a while, and would like to again. Let me see if I got it in my--

Interviewer:
I think Mike Smith told me he thought Jackman was living in western Oregon or eastern Oregon.

Joe Blum:
I think he has property. Eastern Oregon... hum My number for him in Oregon is area code 503-828-7761.

Interviewer:
OK. Perhaps I'll be able to get in touch with him there. Thank you.

Joe Blum:
[INAUDIBLE]

Interviewer:
What was-- do you remember anything about what the atmosphere was like at that negotiation in Reed's office?

Joe Blum:
How would I put-- you never met Reed. I was left with the impression that for once, the state was in charge-- or had a little bit of an upper hand in dealing with the Department of the Interior.

Interviewer:
The representatives from the state were pretty secure about their legal position?

Joe Blum:
Yes. And had [INAUDIBLE] surprised interior. And Reed was a very wealthy individual, quite outgoing when he wishes to be. And was being as friendly as he could. But was-- there was other times that we had dealt with him on other issues. And it was more like we were dealing with an infant.

Interviewer:
You think he was maybe being friendly because he thought he had the worst hand in the situation?

Joe Blum:
I'm not sure that Reed would ever admit to that. But I would say yes.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh. So what was-- do you have recollections about what your impression was at the end of the negotiations, as far as how the state had come out? I mean, because the state did agree to relinquish almost half of the 77 million acres.

Joe Blum:
Yeah, but there was a reason for that, though I can't recall what that was. It was not a land reason, as I recall.

I'm not going to be able to help you at all on that. But there's something in my mind that says we relinquished for strategic reasons for something else. And I think-- I know what our recollection was, what our feelings were in the Fish and Game Department, is that we've gotten something.

And we hadn't had anything before. And we had to relinquish something for some other reason, but at least were further ahead than we had been nine months before that.

Interviewer:
I see.

Joe Blum:
I don't know if I can put Fish and Game attitude to you in the proper context. But Fish and Game was not a very powerful agency within the early administrations of statehood. There were really second class agents.

There were individual items that would catch political attention, and would be dealt with. But routine matters, if it came down to a choice between going with another agency or going with what Fish and Game wanted, they, 99 times out of 100, they'd go with what the other agency wanted.

Now we had taken a step forward. Jackman was very sensitive to the types of issues we were involved in. And Herbert I think recognized the need. The state was going to put in the full 77 million acres selection. But some of it had to be for fish and wildlife because there just wasn't enough justification for all of it for other purposes. So we were riding on a high.

Since that time, I think things have changed substantially. Mike was director of Division of Land.

Interviewer:
You think since that time there's been more harmonious relationships between the two departments?

Joe Blum:
Yeah, probably about as harmonious as you can get between two agencies that have different mandates, substantially different mandates. Is Leresche still commissioner?

Interviewer:
He was up until the end of June. John Katz is now commissioner.

Joe Blum:
Oh, what's Bob doing?

Interviewer:
He is working for the See Alaska corporation. Or actually, he may not have started yet. I think he's not starting until September.

Joe Blum:
Is Mike still running a consulting outfit?

Interviewer:
Mike Smith?

Joe Blum:
Yeah.

Interviewer:
You know, I interviewed him in his office over on C Street. And I don't even know what the office was. I know it was some kind of private consultant firm, but I'm not sure the name of it.

Joe Blum:
John Katz was the attorney, was he not? Or is an attorney?

Interviewer:
Yeah, at the time that we're speaking of now, I believe he was still working for Stevens. I think he was Stevens' legal man in the drafting of ANCSA.

Joe Blum:
Real thick glasses.

Interviewer:
Yeah, I believe so. I never really met the man. I don't know him. So you don't have any specific recollections about the parcels of land that were discussed or the issues that were discussed at the negotiations in Washington?

Joe Blum:
No, I don't

Interviewer:
Uh-huh, and you think the best person--

Joe Blum:
Well, there was always discussion about McKinley Park.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh.

Joe Blum:
Land surrounding McKinley. The Wrangell's were always a point of discussion. North Slope, stuff between Kenai Refuge and Seward, and between Seward and Homer.

The big ones I remember were McKinley and the Wrangell's. But just not McKinley itself, but the lands outside McKinley.

Interviewer:
Yeah, the map I'm looking at here, two pretty sizable blocks, both north and south, of the original McKinley Park were agreed-- the state agreed to relinquish. Why would that have been, especially if the state had a good deck of cards?

Joe Blum:
You'd have to ask David. I don't know why.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh.

Joe Blum:
I expect they got something for it, of a different character.

Interviewer:
Yes.

Joe Blum:
Original identification of it was probably to use as a relinquishment for something else. Because it was clear that the Department of Interior would not want the crummy old state having lands on the border of majestic McKinley Park.

Interviewer:
So you think there may have been some intent to use that as a bargaining chip right from the time those lands were selected?

Joe Blum:
Yeah.

Interviewer:
Now, most of the land in the Wrangell's was also relinquished at that meeting. Do you have any recollection about that?

Joe Blum:
Nope.

Interviewer:
Although, I guess there's one section around the lands that the state had already selected much earlier in the McCarthy area. That was agreed was available for state selection subject to cooperative wildlife management. That doesn't ring any bells?

Joe Blum:
Nope. I remember it, but the subtleties are not there anymore.

Interviewer:
Yeah, yeah. You made mention of the north slope. The northernmost section that was made at that time was just south of the Arctic Wildlife Range.

Joe Blum:
I meant the Brooks Range.

Interviewer:
Yeah. And most that selection, I believe, is still a valid state selection now. Although I think some of it was relinquished at that time. You don't have any recollections about that in particular?

Joe Blum:
Nope. Is it at all close to the pipeline corridor?

Interviewer:
Yeah, yeah. I believe that there was some intent, that that was for a pipeline corridor. Although there was Fish and Game interest in that as well.

Joe Blum:
Oh, yes. The arctic is a basically resident species refuge. And we were trying to protect their status up there as well.

Interviewer:
Yeah, was there a general attitude of-- I mean, it seems to be like the time from statehood-- when at statehood, the state didn't receive the right immediately to manage its own wildlife-- the federal government held on to that for a while-- by this time, was there still an attitude-- outside of what was going on with land issues-- that the Fish and Game Department wanted to be independent and be able to do its own management?

Joe Blum:
Oh, yeah. That's true of all the states in the union, though. The states' rights issue on managing resident species is a continuous thorn in the side between the states and federal government.

And Alaska, at that time, and I'm sure today, was one of the leaders of the states rights issues. Sommerville made his career out of it.

Interviewer:
I see.

Joe Blum:
Validly so.

Interviewer:
Yeah.

Joe Blum:
[INAUDIBLE] federal government.

Interviewer:
Do you have any further recollection of the occurrences that surrounded this whole land selection and negotiations?

Joe Blum:
Just that it was a very exciting time.

Interviewer:
Yeah, must have been.

Joe Blum:
Yeah, it was great to be involved in it.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh. Now, how much--

Joe Blum:
Subtleties, and strategies, and that type of thing though.

Interviewer:
Do you-- now, how much longer after that were are you with the Department of Fish and Game? You were deputy commissioner through '73?

Joe Blum:
I left in June, I think, of '73.

Interviewer:
I see. And that's when you left to join the federal government.

Joe Blum:
Yeah, the legislature eliminated my position. They eliminated the deputy commissioner for Fish and Game at the legislative session sometime in March of '73, positioned to abolish at the beginning of the fiscal year, in July. And I left in June. Haven't been back.

Interviewer:
I see. That position wasn't eliminated for reasons connected with the topic we're discussing?

Joe Blum:
No, it was eliminated for reasons of-- I think, I personally annoyed some people in the legislature over positions on southeastern logging.

Interviewer:
I see.

Joe Blum:
Couple other things.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh.

Joe Blum:
I've been given to understand no one has ever actually fessed up. That was eliminated, It was eliminated-- for that reason.

Interviewer:
I'm sorry, I can't hear you?

Joe Blum:
I've just been told that. I don't know if that's why it happened.

Interviewer:
Yeah.

Joe Blum:
It had nothing to do with Alaska native plants and land selection.

Interviewer:
Yeah, uh-huh.

Joe Blum:
I was offered a job by the next governor to come back and take the job that Jackman eventually got. That was the governors representative on the state and federal land use plan commission, for Hammond.

Interviewer:
I see.

Joe Blum:
But I had just accepted a job with Fish and Wildlife Services and didn't wish to-- this would have been '74, November of '74. Didn't wish to burn that bridge by quitting one day after I just reported for work.

Interviewer:
Just to go back to one other issue about September '72 agreement, nobody has really made much reference in my discussions with them on this subject before, to the lands on on the Kenai Peninsula that you referred to. Was the impetus for that selection originally from Fish and Game?

Joe Blum:
Yes.

Interviewer:
Uh-huh, so it wasn't for minerals, or something?

Joe Blum:
Well, there was mineral interest. But they were very pleased that Fish and Game was interested so that if could be a double-selection, it could have double resource value.

Interviewer:
I see. And you-- let's see, it seems to me that most of that was relinquished.

Joe Blum:
That I can't answer.

Interviewer:
Yeah Well, I think I pretty much ran out of questions on the subject. Do you have any--

Joe Blum:
I don't have more recollection of the subtleties, but brain cells are dying rapidly, I think.

Interviewer:
And the person who would probably have the best recollections of this would be Jackman, I guess?

Joe Blum:
I would think so, yes.

Interviewer:
Wow. Thanks very much. I appreciate your time.

Page last updated 10/26/2018