Alaska Outdoor Council
Governor Sean Parnell
February 3, 2012
Thank you, Bill Iverson, Rod Arno.
I hope you’ve had a great day! I saw you had a stellar line-up of speakers on a host of hot topics. From access to animals, and from lands to lawsuits.
You’ve heard the detail of what’s going on around you. Now I’d like you to hear the policy of our state…
After gathering a new cabinet together following the 2010 election, I asked my commissioners and AG to examine their departments’ mission statements, to be sure they aligned with Alaska’s Constitution. For over time, other things start to get in the way of what a department is supposed to be aiming at.
Think about your moose hunt. Think on how you position yourself in the early evening hours after some supper to watch that meadow. As the sun goes down, it gets more and more difficult to scope the tree line beyond the meadow.
And then there’s that point … and you’ve been there, I know … when darkness has settled in and obscured your view. You and your buddies turn around and head back to camp.
So it is with a department’s mission statement. Over time, mission statements get watered down. Buried and obscured by the push and pull of commissioners and legislators trying to keep the peace; compromise language can settle like darkness and obscure the true target.
If you can see and aim for what you know to be right and true, you’re more likely to hit it. That’s why I challenged my departments to review their mission statements and change them if necessary to sight-in their constitutional mandate.
DNR leadership reviewed their mission statement and decided to make a change in it. DNR’s new mission statement says it aims to: Responsibly develop Alaska’s resources by making them available for maximum use and benefit consistent with the public interest.
Hmmm…sounds kind of familiar.
Article 8, Section 1 of Alaska’s constitution 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.”
I’m proud of DNR leadership for aiming at Alaska’s constitutional mandate for natural resources.
Some naysayers expressed concern the change to DNR’s mission statement no longer expressly carries the word “conserve” in it. They throw their hands up and say…O-M-G…all these guys want to do is develop!!
But these people have simply misread DNR’s mission statement. And maybe they haven’t taken time to read Alaska’s Constitution.
Article 8, Section 1 is an overarching policy statement. It is the big target we are to aim for with Alaska’s natural resources.
Article 8, Section 1 encourages settlement of lands and development for maximum use… “consistent with the public interest.”
What does this phrase mean? Consistent with the public interest means Alaska’s resources are not just for our use. These resources are for our children and grandchildren. They are for Alaskans across generations.
The rest of Article 8 defines what is consistent with the public interest:
Common use. Sustained yield principles. Access rights.
Utilization, development, and conservation for the maximum benefit of Alaskans. All that gets fleshed out in the Constitution. It doesn’t all have to be expressly laid into a department’s mission statement – because it’s ALL already packed into Article 8, Section 1 of our constitution.
If DNR aims for the overarching target mandated by the constitution, its action will be consistent with these public interests.
So the natural resources policy of our state is to stay firmly rooted in Alaska’s constitution. And, for you legislators present, may I suggest a friendly amendment to DNR’s mission that you could offer:
You could actually give them the entire mission of Article 8, Section 1.
Instead of just developing Alaska’s resources consistent with the public interest, you could lay virtually all of the language on them from that section and tell them you also want them 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.”
That same Alaska Constitution grants both express and implied access rights for all Alaskans.
We deliver access by fighting for it. And we deliver access by funding it.
When it comes to RS 2477s: We funded mapping and evidence gathering for rights of way in the Fortymile region in 2011.
And now the State of Alaska has an Assistant AG dedicated to working on RS-2477 full time. RS-2477s are no longer just extra-curricular work for Department of Law attorneys. Instead, we are dedicating a full-time lawyer to making the case for these trails.
We also keep a watchful eye on the federal government. When Interior wanted to start a new wilderness designation planning effort, we fought it. And we won.
As governor, I want to assure you – Alaska is ALL IN ON ACCESS:
We funded road access to state forests.
My proposed FY13 budget has $2 million for Division of Forestry for access, primarily in Southeast.
Another $2 million is allocated to DOT to be used with these projects.
And here’s a budget breakdown that says it all: When compared to DNR’s core services, 18 percent of the department’s proposed Operating Budget is dedicated to providing access to State lands.
We will aggressively fight to maintain and renew every Alaskan’s access rights.
Now, let’s cast our line over to Fish and Game:
They completed two new sport fish hatcheries to provide additional access for anglers.
As you know, this was a big undertaking requiring support from Alaskans.
This fall, Fish and Game worked with Revenue to refinance the hatchery construction bonds, saving millions of dollars.
The result? They’ll repeal the sport fish license surcharge earlier than expected. That is results-based management!
Our Wildlife Division followed through on our commitment to increase opportunity, with successful active management programs that increased harvestable surpluses and hunting opportunities.
We will continue our scientifically based management programs.
And let there be no doubt: Our state policy is to abide by our constitutional mandate to manage for sustained yield and the maximum benefit of Alaskans is State policy.
We’re fighting the feds on harebrained Endangered Species listings that lock away land and harm our economy.
We’ve got good people developing solid information, and we’re demanding that Alaska is heard – and heeded – by our government in Washington.
And speaking of fighting federal overreach, let’s stop in at the Department of Law:
I was at a National Governor’s Association event in 2011 where the Secretary of the Interior came over to me and asked something like, “How’s my favorite litigating governor?”
And since Choosing Respect is so important to me, I very politely acknowledged his comment—taking it as a compliment that he knew I would stand up for Alaskans against federal overreach. I won’t back down!
Take John Sturgeon’s case, for example. This case is about the State's sovereign right and responsibility to govern its own lands and waters. Pure and simple.
So this takes us back to our State Constitution, where I started this evening: It’s our playbook. Our guide. Our topo map.
The Alaska Constitution keeps us oriented. And prevents mission drift. We will continue to stand for what is right and true.
Thank you – you are great Alaskans! Have a good evening!