This week legislators will meet to discuss mission statements. One topic will be changes to the Department of Natural Resources’ mission statement in January.
Anchorage Republican Representative Mia Costello is the chair of the House DNR Budget Subcommittee. She says legislators will be taking a closer look at the changes to the DNR’s mission statement this week.
“Yes I will bring it up. And I did want to mention that every budget subcommittee is hinging our hat on the mission statement of the department. We’re really looking at that. so it will come up and we will address it,” Costello said.
The change caught some legislators by surprise, when Commissioner Dan Sullivan presented it to them in a House Resources committee meeting Jan. 20.
“We’ve kind of revised our mission statement a little bit to simplify it and actually what we think’s syncin’ up much more closely to what the constitutional mandate is. In the past year we actually expanded, I don’t know if in the budgeting process in the budgeting process we had kinda two core services, we’ve expanded those core services to four and and we believe that’s a better reflection of what all the different directors do, so we’ve been working on kind of our responsibilities to the citizens of Alaska and how we interpret that through mission and core services,” Sullivan said.
To Commissioner Sullivan’s explanation of the mission change, Republican Representative Paul Seaton replied.
“The Mission Statement, I appreciate you saying that that was changed but it seems to be quite a different direction I mean the current mission statement has been to develop, conserve, enhance the natural resources for present and future Alaskans. And with the new one, all future Alaskans basically are out of it and it looks like its by making them available for maximum use and benefit consistent with public interest that it seems to be quite a different, um, emphasis,” Seaton said.
Comissioner Sullivan issued the change on Jan. 17. The words conserve and enhance have been dropped along with the reference to “future Alaskans.” That change bothers Anchorage Democratic Representative Berta Gardner.
“He basically says that conserve is implied in the new mission statement because it says maximum benefit, which also according to him means for future generations too. I’m not sure that I agree with that,” Gardner said.
Representative Gardner ordered a research report and a legal opinion, from the legislative legal department. The opinion confirms that it is the job of the legislature to set agency missions. But if a mission is changed, by a department, and the legislature fails to object, it qualifies as tacit approval.
Last week at a press conference in the capital, Governor Sean Parnell spoke out in support of Commissioner Sullivan’s decision and confirmed he played a role in the changes to the mission statement.
“Yes, I certainly had a role in that mission statement because that mission statement comes straight out of Alaska’s constitution, for department of naturals resources. It is Article 8 section 1 of the constitution. I thought the constitution was a pretty good foundation for a department’s mission. but I think if you read that statement of policy from the constitution, even though it doesn’t expressly mention that conservation element, its implied in the terms of that section,” Parnell said.
The DNR was not the only department to change its mission this year. Mission for the Department of Transportation and for the Governor also changed.
Representative Gardner’s staff confirm the research report and legal opinion have been passed onto the chair of the DNR Budget Subcommittee … and that the hearing is set on the issue on Tuesday.