If, as Commissioner Dan Sullivan says, elements dropped from the Department of Natural Resources mission statement are still implied in the department's mission, why bother to change the statement at all?
Why change the explicit to implicit?
Here's the previous mission statement: "To develop, conserve and enhance natural resources for present and future generations."
Here's the mission statement sought by Sullivan and Gov. Sean Parnell: "To responsibly develop Alaska's resources by making them available for maximum use and benefit consistent with the public interest."
Elements dropped are sure to inspire questions and arouse suspicion. Drop "conserve" and "enhance" and delete references to "future generations" and people will naturally wonder if your new mission is development, full speed ahead, without much regard to conservation or the future.
The job of the Department of Natural Resources was well-defined by the previous mission statement, which also had the virtue of brevity while including all the elements of what's been the Alaska challenge since statehood -- develop our resources, protect our magnificent environment, manage the trade-offs and serve both today's and tomorrow's needs. Prosper now and provide our children and theirs the same or better opportunities.
Instead of leaving well enough alone, the commissioner has managed to create a controversy for no good reason. Further, he's strayed into lawmakers' turf. They've pointed out that by law it's the Legislature that decides on the stated missions of state departments, not commissioners or governors.
To the extent we need mission statements beyond constitutional direction, they shouldn't be directives changeable from one administration to the next, but abiding goals.
Commissioner Sullivan has said he's willing to work with lawmakers on better wording for his department's mission statement.
Better yet, both commissioner and lawmakers should waste no more time in the 90-day session on this issue.
Leave the mission statement as it was. Concentrate on the hard work of sound development.
BOTTOM LINE: Don't tinker with the mission statement. Do the work.