February 9, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 6

Fish Factor

State DNR drops word ‘conserve’ from mission

Alaskans were surprised to learn (from the Anchorage Daily News’ Alaska Ear, of all places) that there is a new and very different mission statement posted by the Department of Natural Resources on the State of Alaska website. 

The old ‘statement of policy’: “To develop, conserve and enhance natural resources for present and future generations.” 

The new mission statement:  “To responsibly develop Alaska‘s resources by making them available for maximum use and benefit consistent with the public interest.” 

Questions about the mission shift dominated a recent press conference, where Governor Parnell was quick to defend the change.

“I certainly had a role in that mission statement,” he asserted. “It comes straight out of the Alaska Constitution. It is Article 8, Section 1 of the Constitution.  I think that’s a pretty good foundation for a department’s mission. ”

Parnell was pressed on the removal of the word ‘conserve,’ the adding of the term ‘maximum development’ and the lack of mention of   future generations.

“Even though it doesn’t expressly mention that conservation element, it’s implied in the terms of that section,” the governor retorted.  “So it’s development, it’s conservation, it’s everything. So read the Constitution – that’s exactly where that mission came from.”

Queried one reporter:   “You’re saying it is implied that resources will be conserved for future generations. How so?” It says they will be developed for maximum benefit – it doesn’t say anything about conservation or the future.

“You don’t believe maximum benefit for the people implies future generations as well?” asked Parnell.  “I do, and I actually gave voice to that in my State of the State address. That it’s not about just us grabbing as much cash as we can now, it’s about our kids and our grandkids and that they have a legacy too. That’s exactly why I think conservation is implied in there as part of the policy. I’m not going to argue with the Constitution. I think it’s a pretty good direction for the Dept. of Natural Resources,” he added.

“Actually, the state statute that actually defines and puts into statute as the mission for DNR does use the word conserve”, pointed out APRN’s Dave Donaldson.

Reporters also commented that The DNR policy change appeared to jump the gun, as department mission statements are required to be approved by the legislature. 

“Well, look, I’m willing to have the conversation with legislators. Certainly the legislature gets to set missions and measures by statute. I was a part of that and had a hand in that in the ‘90s when I was in the legislature. This legislature has not spoken and I am willing to have the conversation with them. And if they have something better than Article 8; Section 1 of the Constitution as a mission for DNR and want to set that, I’m willing to work with them on it.”

What it says – Article VIII of the Alaska Constitution addresses Natural Resources. Section 1; Statement of Policy says:  “It is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.”

Section 2. General Authority, states: The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people.

Section 3. Common Use, says:  Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use.

 Gov defends ADF&G -The governor also was asked at the press conference about recent law violations with some staff at the Dept. of Fish and Game, notably, Division of Wildlife Conservation director Corey Rossi who was recently indicted on 12 Class A hunting misdemeanors, and if Alaskans should be concerned that ADF&G is “broken.”

‘Absolutely not,” Parnell said. “I think if you look at Commissioner Campbell’s leadership, and you look at what’s happened, I think the right outcomes have resulted, and I think, frankly, if you looked at any work place, I think you would find issues. It’s a question of how they are dealt with in the end. And in these cases, I would say look at the department now and tell me what is wrong with it, because I think we have a very professional department and we have very professional leadership there.” 

Commissioner Campbell on Jan. 25 appointed Doug Vincent-Lang, a longtime state fisheries biologist, as new Division of Wildlife   Conservation director.    

Fishing safety star! Jennifer Lincoln, well-known director of the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety Research Program in Anchorage, has received the first Life Saver award by National Fisherman magazine. Dr. Lincoln and her team are credited with developing emergency winch stops, vessel hatch and door monitors, and working with Alaska fishermen to field test personal flotation devices, to name a few. Lincoln is an injury epidemiologist with the Center for Disease Control/National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. 

Fishing gives back – American Seafoods Company is again accepting applications for its Alaska community grant program. A total of $30,000 will be distributed by the company’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) to projects addressing issues such as hunger, housing, safety, education, research, natural resources and cultural activities.

Similar funds in December went, for example, to the Bristol Bay Native Association Regional Food Bank ($2,500), Unalaskans Against Family Violence ($2,250), Kodiak Island Food Bank ($1,550), Native Village of Hooper Bay ($1,500), Ketchikan General Hospital Foundation ($1,000), and St. Paul Food Bank ($2,000).

American Seafoods Company is one of the nation’s largest seafood harvesters and processors and since 1997 has granted over $1,000,000 to organizations and programs in rural Alaska.

Grant applications are available online at www.americanseafoods.com, or by contacting Kim Lynch at kim.lynch@americanseafoods.com or 206-256-2659. The deadline to apply is February 15; recipients will be selected on February 22.

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