Old Hand Picked as California's Next Fish and Game Head

SACRAMENTO, California, April 16, 2008 (ENS) – California’s new director of the Department of Fish and Game is likely to come to the job out of a retirement that lasted only a few months. If confirmed by the state Senate, Donald Koch would lead the agency he served for 30 years.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced Koch’s appointment to the $143,000 a year position. “California’s diverse wildlife is among our most treasured natural resources,” the governor said. “I am confident Donald will continue to protect these cherished resources that make our state so unique.”

Donald Koch
(Photo courtesy DFG)

Koch is a Democrat, but says he is pleased to work in the governor’s Republican administration.

“It is a great honor to serve in this important role in Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration,” said Koch. “I look forward to using my background to protect California’s vast fish and wildlife population.”

Koch, 55, of Redding, earned a Master of Science degree in biological sciences from California State University, Sacramento and a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of California, Davis.

Starting as a fish and wildlife assistant in 1981, conducting wildlife population and habitat trend surveys, Koch rose through the years to become Northern California-North Coast regional manager from 1998 to 2007.

When Koch retired from the department in December, he was advisor to the directorate, and represented the agency in Klamath River negotiations. As regional manager, he was responsible for law enforcement and fish, wildlife and habitat conservation.

The department’s mission is “to manage California’s fish, wildlife and plant resources and the habitats on which they depend for their ecological values and enjoyment by the public.”

The agency says that this includes “habitat protection and maintenance in a sufficient amount and quality to ensure the survival of all species and natural communities.”

On the other hand, the Department of Fish and Game also is responsible for the diversified use of fish and wildlife including recreational, commercial, scientific and educational uses, a role that can conflict with conservation.

The first statewide conservation group to focus on protecting California’s wild and native trout today expressed confidence in Koch’s leadership.

“Don Koch has been an effective Department of Fish and Game employee for many years,” said California Trout Chief Executive Officer Brian Stranko. “His collaborative and determined work in the Department’s Region One has provided substantial aid for salmon and steelhead recovery,”

California Trout is urging changes in the agency’s priorities under the new leadership, including increased funds and staffing for the Wild and Heritage Trout programs and stricter enforcement of environmental regulations;

The conservation group would like to see greater financial support and leadership for steelhead and salmon recovery, including “clear follow through on the 1996 Steelhead Recovery Plan and the recent Coho Recovery Plan.”

Stranko said, “We expect that Mr. Koch will provide renewed leadership for our beleaguered wild fish populations, making fisheries and river and stream protection and restoration a top priority for the department.”

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