An Open Letter to Commissioner Sullivan


Dan Sullivan, Commissioner
Department of Natural Resources
550 W. 7th Ave, Suite 1260
Anchorage, AK 99501-3557

Re: Department of Natural Resources Mission Statement

Dear Commissioner Sullivan:

The Anchorage Daily News reports that your Department of Natural Resources has recently revised its Mission Statement. WC is doubly annoyed.

First, to a very considerable extent, a mission statement is time-wasting twaddle for a government agency like DNR. You have a mission statement already: the Alaska Constitution. WC regards it as an ill-conceived waste of DNR’s resources, and an inappropriate activity for appointed officials, to be second-guessing, you know, elected officials.

Second, and more importantly, you got it seriously wrong. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the old and new

Old Mission Statement (1987) New Mission Statement (2012)
To develop, conserve and enhance natural resources for present and future Alaskans To responsibly develop Alaska’s resources by making them available for maximum use and benefit consistent with the public interest.

WC note’s that “conserve” and “future Alaskans” dropped out of DNR’s new mission statement. “Sustainability,” another pretty important concept embedded in the Alaska Constitution, never made the cut. What the Constitution actually says?

Article VIII, Section 2: 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.

Article VIII, Section 4: Fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and all other replenishable resources belonging to the State shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.

(WC has tried to help by placing the overlooked critical bits in red.) To the extent that a mission statement is even necessary, shouldn’t it reflect, you know, the Constitution? Unless you just want to be a lapdog for our scofflaw governor, why not describe as your mission something other than the immediate gratification of whoever is defining “the public interest.” Sure, those fine, upstanding corporations, recently anointed as “people,” want the public interest to coincide with their maximum profits, but that’s not what the folks writing Alaska’s Constitution had in mind.

In fact, your new mission statement sucks up to the mining and oil industries in ways that contravene the Constitution. Not the least of which is the omission of conservation.

And, by the way, conservation goes beyond renewable resources. If the extraction of nonrenewable resources injures renewable resources, that’s a violation of the Alaska Constitution, too.

Why not scrap the whole thing? Why not tell anyone wondering if DNR has a mission statement that it’s Article VIII of the Alaska Constitution. Give them a link.

And to the extent that your boss objects, remind the Governor that he’s not the boss. The Constitution and the people it protects are in charge. To the extent that this revised mission statement may reflect what you really aim to do? Develop resources without regard to conservation, sustainability or the long term future of the resources? You are doomed to failure.

Just trying to help.

/Wickersham’s Conscience

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