The right move

Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2003

I support Gov. Murkowski's decision to move the permitting section of the Habitat Division from the Department of Fish and Game to DNR.

Gov. Murkowski handily won the Nov. 5 election because he promised no new taxes and to jumpstart the economy to get this state moving toward more prosperous times. His pledge to streamline the permitting process is part of this plan.

Let there be no doubt the fish habitat is still going to get the protection it needs to maintain and provide the record fish runs we have been having for the past decade.

It has been no secret the division of Habitat was where a permit for a project could be held up or delayed far beyond a reasonable time. Gov. Murkowski has cited just a few of the projects that have suffered undue delays by the Habitat division.

The fishing industry overwhelmingly supported Gov. Murkowski. By some estimates, 80 percent of the fishing vote went to him. This is an industry that depends on good habitat for its future.

United Fishermen of Alaska is the largest fishing organization in Alaska. They voted to support Gov. Murkowski because they believe he was the candidate that would best protect and support their industry. This includes protecting the habitat that provides the abundant fish resources that all user groups benefit from.

UFA and its president, Bob Thorstenson, have come under fire in the press recently by some members for supporting Gov. Murkowski's decision to move the permitting division of Habitat to DNR. Some of the names I recognize that are against this move are people that did not support Gov. Murkowski.

They are the vocal minority that evidently liked the last eight years, when the environmentalists had the support of the Knowles-Ulmer administration and all the lawsuits the fishing industry is now facing. These include the Steller sealion and marine mammal protection lawsuits. Any one of these lawsuits, if the plaintiffs prevail, will have devastating effects on the fishing industry.

Moving the Habitat permitting division was the right thing to do. It is part of Gov. Murkowski's plan to get the economy moving that the vast majority of Alaskans voted for last November.

My business is fishing and it is essential that good habitat be maintained. I have no doubt that it will continue to be protected and the environmental requirements will not change.

John Winther


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