News-Miner opinion: A joint session of the Alaska Legislature is scheduled for Wednesday for the purpose of voting on several of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s nominees to various departments and commissions. Among them of note for the Interior are the nomination of Douglas Vincent-Lang as commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, Karl Johnstone to the Board of Fisheries and Al Barrette to the Board of Game.
The Legislature should approve all three.
In choosing Mr. Vincent-Lang for the top job, Gov. Dunleavy has chosen someone whose ideas fit with what the writers of the Alaska Constitution had in mind.
Mr. Vincent-Lang served as director of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation from January 2012 to December 2014. He was special assistant to the commissioner from August 2006 to December 2011 and special assistant to the director of the Division of Sport Fish from July 2005 to August 2006.
Prior to that, he was assistant director of the Division of Sport Fish from June 1999 to June 2005. And, at the outset of his career he was a research/management biologist with the Division of Sport Fish from August 1981 to August 1998.
Along the way he has been involved in numerous policy and research matters
And he’s got a Fairbanks connection: He obtained his Master of Science in biological oceanography at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1980.
That’s all well and good, but what about his views on the management of the state’s fish and game?
Here’s a little of what he wrote in a letter to the joint Boards of Fisheries and Game seeking the support of its members for his nomination as commissioner:
“Five principles form the foundation of my resource management philosophy. These include the public trust doctrine, the North American Wildlife Conservation model, the sustained yield principle, the principle of citizen involvement in resource use and state authority to manage fish and wildlife and their uses,” he wrote.
“I believe that fish and wildlife resources are public resources which are preserved for public use, subject to sustained yield principles and allocation decisions by publicly appointed officials ...
“I also support ensuring that the state continues to provide its constitutionally guaranteed subsistence priority given its importance for food and cultural security throughout our state. ... A subsistence priority is meaningless unless it is coupled with resource abundance.”
Quite importantly, Mr. Vincent-Lang would promote active — and that’s the key word — management of the state’s fish and game.
“I support our current efforts focused on active management and oppose efforts focused on passive management that allows important food resources to fluctuate within their natural ranges. Such passive management approaches are ill-equipped towards ensuring stable resource availability or to meet future demands.
What that means is that he supports predator control, an important tool in game management. The most high-profile predator control effort, of course, is the killing of some wolves when necessary to strengthen moose and caribou populations so that they can be at levels suitable for a sustained subsistence use by humans.
Also up for confirmation votes today are two members of the boards that help manage Alaska’s fish and game — Mr. Johnstone to the Board of Fisheries and Mr. Barrette to the Board of Game. Mr. Johnstone, of Anchorage, has been serving on the board in acting capacity. Mr. Barrette was nominated to the game board in 2010, but the Legislature failed to confirm amid concerns by some members that he had a conflict of interest because he owns a tanning business and because he worked as state aerial wolf gunner while also serving on the game board.
Both board nominees have the enthusiastic support of the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee, and the Fairbanks-based Resident Hunters of Alaska has supported Mr. Barrette. Mr. Johnstone’s nomination has come under fire from commercial fishing interests, who already dominate the board. Other voices, such as those in sport fishing, need greater representation — and Mr. Johnstone’s appointment should help.
Managing Alaska’s fish and game is a constant balancing act among competing user groups. But the bottom line here is the Alaska Constitution, which states that “replenishable resources belonging to the State shall be utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.”
And it will take strong leaders to make that happen. Gov. Dunleavy has chosen these three Alaskans to do just that.