Alaskans were surprised to learn that a new and very different mission statement has been adopted by the Department of Natural Resources.
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, at which Gov. Sean Parnell was quick to defend the change.
"I certainly had a role in that mission statement," he said. "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 "conserve," the addition of "maximum development" and the lack of any 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."
Asked 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 Department of Natural Resources."
"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 asked whether the change had jumped the gun, because departmental mission statements require approval by the Legislature.
"Well, look, I'm willing to have the conversation with legislators," Parnell said. "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."
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, says: "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."
Parnell defends Fish and Game
The governor also was asked about recent alleged law violations by some staff at the Department of Fish and Game, most notably former Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Corey Rossi, who was recently indicted on a dozen Class A hunting misdemeanors.
Asked if Alaskans should be concerned that ADF&G is "broken," Parnell replied: "Absolutely not. 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 workplace, 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."
On Jan. 25, Commissioner Cora Campbell 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. 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 just a few of their efforts. Lincoln is an injury epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state. This material is protected by copyright. For information on reprinting, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.