Mr. Murkowski's plan to switch many regulatory processes to the Department of Natural Resources should be of great concern to all Alaskans. The permitting process for development projects can be lengthy, expensive and frustrating. Its purpose, however, is invaluable. Permitting requirements are in place to protect Alaska citizens, fish and wildlife resources, and the habitats that support them. We are all dependent on healthy ecosystems and we must make ecosystem health the priority in the planning, proposing and implementing of development projects.
Resource development is vital to Alaska's economy, but it cannot proceed at the expense of clean water, clean air and other economic and noneconomic interests. Mr. Murkowski justified his action by saying the Habitat Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was the sole objector for several "legitimate" projects. The reason we have regulatory process is to ensure development proceeds safely and not in the interest of only one or a few interests. Perhaps these "legitimate" projects, as outlined, lacked safeguards against significant environmental and/or ecosystem damage. If so, ADF&G would be right to object. Apparently, Mr. Murkowski views the permitting process as a "rubber stamp" for any proposed project.
Mr. Murkowski's ideas and actions on this manner should be carefully reconsidered. Most Alaskans support economic and resource development, but these same Alaskans also expect and demand clean water, clean air, healthy ecosystems, and environmentally responsible development. This can only be done with a regulatory process that takes advantage of the broad expertise a multiagency review process can provide. The Department of Natural Resources lacks this broad expertise.