Last week, Rod Cadmus of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council wrote to express his opinion that former Gov. Murkowski's permitting changes will put the Taku River at risk from the proposed Tulsequah Chief Mine.
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Cadmus implies that because the Habitat Division was moved, the permitting decisions are no longer in the hands of professional biologists. This is simply not true. More than half of Office of Habitat Management and Permitting's permitters are former Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists, and the remainder meet the same professional qualifications as their habitat biologist colleagues at Fish and Game. Cadmus also is concerned that the Tulsequah access permitting will be a test case for Murkowski's habitat move. Well, I have good news. Management and permitting has been functioning very well for five years now, and has issued many permits while protecting Alaska's fish habitat. There are also numerous other projects, much larger in scope than the Tulsequah proposal, which the Habitat office and other state regulators have reviewed.
Cadmus also raises concerns about the move of the Coastal Management Program to the Department of Natural Resources. Although some of the program's enforceable policies have been revised to eliminate duplication with other state and federal authorities, the structure of the program remains the same, continues to involve resource agencies and local governments (both of which have expertise and authority to manage local resources and uses), and it continues to address habitat issues that are not the purview of another state or federal agency.
Gov. Sarah Palin has requested that we take a look at both of these programs and determine how well they have been functioning for the last five years, and to propose changes, if necessary. We are in the process of conducting this evaluation. However, to date, nobody has been able to show me one single example of where either of these programs has failed the people of Alaska since they were moved.
In summary, state agencies are just beginning their formal review of the proposed Tulsequah access proposal. This will be a thorough review, and management and permitting is working closely with biologists at Fish and Game during this process. While these organizational changes were made under Murkowski's watch, the programs are now operating under Palin's watch, and we will not put the fisheries of the Taku River at risk.
Deputy commissioner,Alaska Departmentof Natural Resources