Alaska wildlife official resigns after accusations of hunt violations

Corey Rossi, 51, is accused of falsifying records claiming that he killed all four bears taken during the hunt and filed records saying that two out-of-state hunters were unsuccessful in taking game

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by The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A top Alaska Fish and Game official has been charged with a dozen criminal hunting violations and quit his job Thursday, state officials said.

The charges against Corey Rossi, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, were filed by the state Department of Law's office of special prosecutions, and relate to an illegal 2008 bear hunt, state troopers said. At the time, Rossi was a licensed assistant big game guide.

The Anchorage Daily News reports (http://is.gd/pm083k ) that Rossi is accused of making false statements on big game hunting reports and unlawfully possessing an illegally taken bear. He is also accused of five counts of unlawful acts by an assistant big game guide.

He was a controversial choice in 2010 to head the Wildlife Conservation office.

Rossi submitted his resignation Thursday, Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell said in an email. He was not immediately reachable by phone.

Conservation Division operations manager Dale Rabe has been named as Rossi's interim replacement, a Fish and Game spokeswoman told the newspaper.

In a report posted Thursday afternoon, troopers said Rossi aided two non-residents in the killing of three black bears in the Susitna Valley in 2008. Rossi also killed a bear himself during the same hunt, troopers said.

However, on reports to the state, Rossi said he killed all four bears and that the out-of-state hunters were unsuccessful, troopers said.

Alaska wildlife troopers investigated after learning about the accusations through an unrelated, out-of-state investigation conducted by another agency.

In March 2010, then-Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd defended his choice of Rossi to head the wildlife conservation division.

Lloyd wrote to John Schoen, senior scientist at Audubon Alaska, one day after Schoen sent him a letter signed by 39 former Fish and Game employees asking that Rossi, who had just begun the new job, be ousted.

The letter said that Rossi lacked the educational background and scientific training to head the division. It also raised concerns that under Rossi's leadership, professional wildlife management would be replaced by a simpler model to maximize production of wild game meat in Alaska.

Lloyd said Rossi's selection was thoroughly considered and was based on his demonstrated skills and his relationships with many in leadership positions at the Fish and Game department.

Rossi was hired at Fish and Game in January 2009 for a newly created position of assistant commissioner for abundance management, overseeing the state's predator control program. His resume for the director's job listed former Gov. Sarah Palin's parents as his top reference.

Rossi employed Palin's parents for 14 years trapping nuisance animals when Rossi worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the former governor's mother, Sally Heath, told The Associated Press in 2010..

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