Gene Peltola Jr., also known as Buzzy, has resigned from running the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge based in Bethel. He has taken a promotion and is moving to Anchorage to become the Assistant Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He will head the subsistence program at the Office of Subsistence Management.
Peltola, who is Yup’ik and was born and raised in Bethel, says subsistence is near and dear to his heart. He knew he wanted to work in this type of job since the 7th grade.
“My father and mother raised me hunting and fishing and trapping and such and going outdoors,” Peltola says.
Right now, he says there are a lot of subsistence issues like poor Chinook or King salmon runs all over the state that have to be addressed. He believes that conservation is part of the solution and says it will take a little personal sacrifice like focusing on other species.
“When it comes down to it, the kids are happy as long as their hands are greasy and their face is greasy,” Peltola says. “And they really don’t mind whether they’re dry fish or smoke fish is a chum, a king, a red, you know, or kippered silvers.”
Peltola has been working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 29 years, since a few days after he graduated from Bethel Regional High School. He’s run the Yukon Delta refuge for five years. At over 19 million acres, it’s the second largest wildlife refuge in the country, known as a breeding ground for hundreds of species of birds from all over the world.
Because he’s moving out of town, Peltola must also resign from being Bethel’s vice mayor on the Bethel City Council. He told council during its regular meeting this week that his last day will be August 13th.
He said he feels like the council is running more professionally than it used to.
“I’d just like to say that prior to my involvement with council, I used to hear a lot of people stipulate that they used to listen to council meetings for entertainment value. It was like flipping on the TV and hitting a certain channel,” Peltola says. “In the last couple of years, I’ve been honored, privileged to work with the council. There’s a lot of things that have been done with this council that I’ve been proud to be a part of.”
Peltola’s position at the wildlife refuge will be advertised soon.