The commissioner of the state's Department of Natural Resources wants to change the agency's mission statement, and the proposed changed is not sitting well with at least one lawmaker and conservation groups who are worried about a pro-development bent.
The current statement says the department's mission is to "develop, conserve and enhance natural resources for present and future Alaskans," KSKA reported.
The new statement removes "conserve" and "enhance," leaving only "develop" in the statement. It also removes the reference to "future Alaskans."
DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan said the change is to better fit with wording in the state's constitution, which in part says: "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."
"It concerns me not just from my organizational standpoint, but from a longtime Alaskan," Trish Rolfe with Trustees for Alaska told the Anchorage radio station.
"It is in our constitution that we utilize, develop and conserve all the natural resources belonging to the state. You know you don't just get to use the first two of it," Rolfe said.
The changes to the mission statement, presented by Sullivan on Jan. 17, also concerns Bob Shavelson with Cook Inletkeeper, who sees it as tilting the balance of the state agency toward development.
"One of the concerns that the Legislature may have is that you have an executive agency that may or may not have some political motivations in making that change, so it should fall in the prerogative of the Legislature to do that because under the notion of separation of powers that falls within the duty of the Legislature," Shavelson said.
Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, questioned the change when Sullivan presented it to the House Resources Committee on Jan. 20.
"I want to make sure that we are developing in a responsible way; we also don't exclude conserving or enhancing our natural resources or future Alaskans. That's something that is left out of the proposed mission statement by DNR," Seaton said.
Seaton anticipates further information from Sullivan about the changes in the statement, what prompted them and future effects.
Seaton also said it's not the agency's option to change mission statements.
"The Legislature sets the mission statements. It hasn't adopted this mission statement. The old mission statement will still be operative until the Legislature changes the mission statement," Seaton said.
He anticipates lawmakers will take up the issue in the next few weeks.
DNR mission statements
DNR's old mission statement: "To develop, conserve, and enhance natural resources for present and future Alaskans."
DNR's new mission statement, which already appears on the agency website: "Responsibly develop Alaska's resources by making them available for maximum use and benefit consistent with the public interest."