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Thread: AOC position on Habitat Division in ADF&G

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    Default AOC position on Habitat Division in ADF&G

    The Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC) in an email (dated 14 December 2006) sent to the Palin ADF&G transition team recommended that “ OHMP has demonstrated remarkable efficiency to an ever increasing workload…. and in reducing the average permit/project review time while still protecting the resources. There is no justification for continued discussion of reestablishing Habitat Division within ADF&G”

    For those not familiar with this issue the past administration transferred Title 16 (salmon habitat protection) and other environmental authority from ADF&G to DNR. This action was not supported by 5 previous governors, most of the environmental community and sport, commercial, and subsistence user groups.

    Gov. Palin had indicated that she is considering moving the biologist and their authority back to ADF&G. In support of this action the Board of Fish recently passed a resolution supporting this transfer to ADF&G. In addition, Lance Traskey, a retired regional supervisor for ADF&G Habitat Division, pointed out in detail the negative actions that resulted from this transfer. His written comments are available and they make a strong case for the transfer back to ADF&G.

    So what is going on with AOC? They did not want to make refuges in major salmon producing areas impacted by the Pebble Mine. This gave support to the Pebble Mine and now they ignore the advice of the Board of Fish, user groups, and experts in the field who pointed out the major lost of habitat authority under this misguided transfer by the past administration.

    The one thing that set Alaska apart from other areas of the world was that habitat was protected by an agency that had that as their mandate. Today, in DNR, habitat is just one factor in their mandate.

    I think Rod should explain this to the public. Is AOC now a front organization for development, do they care about the resources, are they just interested in predator control and controlling subsistence? They appear to have lost their compass.

    Maybe those mining interest in Fairbanks have more influence than most of us thought. No matter what the reason they have not justified the position stated above. Saying there is no justification when a Board of Fish and past habitat regional supervisory point out just the opposite raises serious questions about AOC leadership

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    I sometimes disagree with Nerka but this time he is right on.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Agreed. I have been consistently disappointed in the AOC recently. At one point I had considered membership, but no longer.

    -Brian

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    Thumbs up Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

    ABHA heartily supports the return of habitat division to the Dept. of F&G, and we were successful in getting this message to Governor Palin's transition team.
    AOC is deeply entrenched in the political system, and at this point it is arguable that they have lost touch with the true interests of the hunting and fishing community, present and future.
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    Not picking an arguement, but just trying to get "ejicated"....What has been "lost" by the move of habitat from ADF&G to DNR? Have there been some terrible resource threatening projects permitted in the past 4 years?

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    Quote Originally Posted by homerdave View Post
    ABHA heartily supports the return of habitat division to the Dept. of F&G, and we were successful in getting this message to Governor Palin's transition team.
    AOC is deeply entrenched in the political system, and at this point it is arguable that they have lost touch with the true interests of the hunting and fishing community, present and future.
    Looking awfully political there, Dave. Better be careful who you call, "entrenched". Looks like your feeding at the same table.

    Man am I glad you guys know the TRUE interests of the hunt and fish community. Or is it just that you think you do?????????? Dang..........confused again.
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    Member homerdave's Avatar
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    Default kind of like the fox guarding the henhouse...

    the job of DNR is to govern and facilitate the extraction of Alaska's natural resources.
    ADF&G is mandated by the constitution to manage our wildlife resources for the benefit of ALL the people of alaska, NOT, for instance, for the benefit of a canadian mining firm.
    having habitat division in ADF&G is akin to the division of powers that form checks and balances in our government.
    DNR is primarily in place to see to the development of mineral and timber resources.
    Fish and Game is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining our wildlife resources, and should be in control of habitat evaluation and protection.
    you simply cannot seperate habitat from wildlife.
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    Default Lance Traskey comments to Board of Fish

    • I am Lance Trasky and I reside in Anchorage. I am a fisheries and habitat biologist with over 34 years of experience in fisheries research and in regulating activities that impact fisheries habitat. For 26 years I was the ADF&G Habitat Division Regional Supervisor for Region II which includes the majority of the major fish producing regions of the state including Bristol Bay. I reviewed and permitted thousands of projects ranging from coal mines to stream bank restoration. (I removed some sections because of length limitations on this forum - they dealt with mine impacts- nerka)
    Because the Murkowski administration has stacked the process in their favor. I will summarize eight facts or reasons why this is so.

    First, as one of his first acts Governor Murkowski transferred the authority to protect anadromous fish and maintain fish passage under the Anadromous Fish Act and the Fishways Act from the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Natural Resources by executive order. Overnight the mandate went from ADF&G’s statutory responsibility to ‘protect, preserve, maintain, and where possible extend the fish and wildlife resources of the state in the interest of the economy and well being of the state”, to facilitating the issuance of permits to applicants. The few habitat biologists who did this work were transferred to ADNR. Some have left when other job opportunities at ADF&G became available, and inexperienced replacements have been hired. The result is that Department of Fish and Games no longer has staff who have expertise and years of experience in accessing the impacts of large projects on fish and wildlife and harvest, and ADF&G’s fish and wildlife. I do not believe that either ADF&G or ADNR have staff that has the expertise to evaluate the extremely complex chemical, hydrological and physical impacts associated with a landscape scale mine. Although, ADF&G has many good scientists and dedicated biologists their role has largely been reduced to providing ADNR decision makers with information on the location and abundance....

    Second, the Governor dismantled the Alaska Coastal Management Program by eliminating the guidelines and habitat standards which required that federal and state permits be consistent with a high level of protection to fish and wildlife habitat and resources. He also stripped local governments of their opportunity to veto projects which harm local interests. He eliminated the Office of Governmental Coordination which consolidated agency comments of federal permits and actions and mediated disputes between agencies. He transferred the administration of what little remains of the Coastal Management Program to the Department of Natural Resources.

    Third, the next step in consolidating all of the authority and responsibility to regulate activities impacting fish and wildlife resources within the Department of Natural Resources was to get the Commissioner of Fish and Game to sign a memorandum of understanding transferring ADF&G’s authority under the federal Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act to ADNR. As some of you may know the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act was created by Congress because of concerns that the Corps of Engineers was issuing wetlands fill permits that were destroying the nation’s productive wetlands and fish streams. The FWCA requires that all permits applications under the Corps Section 10, 404 and 401 permit programs and EPA Clean Water Act be submitted to the states fish and wildlife agency for review and that their comments be incorporated unless there is an overriding federal interest. Under the MOU, ADNR’s Commissioner now makes the decisions on what is best for fish and wetlands.

    Fourth, next step in the process to make it easier to trade fish habitat for mining was to change the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s (ADEC) regulation’s to allow the discharge of harmful substances into salmon spawning areas. Although, the creation of so called mixing zones in spawning streams was strongly opposed by fishing organizations, the American Fisheries Society, conservation groups and the public because of concerns that it will result in the degradation of the states valuable fish resources, the ADEC changed the regulations to allow the discharge of substances shown to be harmful to fish and aquatic life into salmon spawning streams and lakes....The ADEC is also attempting to take over administration of the Clean Water Act from EPA....

    Fifth, a system has also been established whereby the mining company conducts or pays for baseline research to be used in the permitting the mine, and pays the salaries of all of the state employees reviewing large mining applications. ADNR controls the RSA process and decides which studies will be funded and how much funding other state agencies receive. Some may argue that this does not buy favorable action on permits, but it certainly buys access and oversight, because applicants review and approve spending. It also creates a system where staff whose jobs are dependent on this funding may lose their funding and jobs if the project doesn’t proceed.

    Sixth, in my discussions with ADF&G biologists it is clear that ADF&G, which is by state law supposed to be the states fisheries experts, does not have either the technical capability or the staff to review a world scale copper mine. ...

    Seventh, don’t count on federal agencies to deny projects which are likely to be harmful to fish. Project review staffs at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been drastically cut in recent years, and their ability to adequately review large mine projects has been greatly diminished. The Corps and EPA approved the disposal of mine tailing into a lake at the Kensington Mine near Juneau. Although this lake only has resident fish, the permitted disposal is significant because it sets precedence for the destruction of more important fish habitat such as Frying Pan Lake, and the headwaters of Tularik Creeks and the Koktuli River. If a mine violates federal water quality statutes don’t count on federal agencies to shut them down. Existing mines in Alaska such as the Red Dog mine have had hundreds of water quality violations, but continue to operate. It appears that once a mine has been permitted it isn’t going to be shut down unless mining becomes unprofitable or the mining company goes out of business...

    Eight, what this means is that all of the state authority to protect fish and wildlife under state statutes and to make recommendations on the issuance of federal permits is now in the hands of the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. Based on the record I believe that this means there is a greater chance that a mega mine which will have very serious impacts on fish and wildlife resources will be approved. I cannot find any case where permits for any large mine have been denied, even where these mines have received serious opposition from some interests i.e. Kensington and Rock Creek. It is ironic that at the same time Wisconsin was outlawing the mining of sulfite ore and Montana was prohibiting cyanide heap leaching, the State of Alaska was dismantling the regulatory framework that had been established to protect fish habitat at statehood and expediting the process to approve these types of mines.

    These eight facts and reasons have two implications. First, the likelihood has increased that a very large scale mine with very serious impacts on fish and wildlife resources, habitat, and commercial, sport and subsistence fishing and marketing will be approved. Second, all state regulatory authority to protect fish and wildlife under state and federal statutes is now in the hands of the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, except the authority of the Boards of Fish and Game to recommend a refuge to the legislature under AS. 16.05.251 and AS 16.05.255. The Board must act. The Boards sustainable salmon and trout policies, at AAC 39.222(d)(6) and 5AAC 75222(d)(6), provide that where actions are needed to regulate human activities that affect wild salmon and trout and their habitats that are outside the authority of the Department or the Board, the “board shall correspond with the relevant authority, including the Governor, relevant boards and commissions, commissioners and chairs of appropriate legislative committees, to describe the issue and recommend appropriate action.”

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    Default What Rod Arno wrote on OHMP

    1) Habitat Protection in DNR or ADF&G-Rod Arno
    Issue: A number of Alaskans are not sure if current DNR mining leases and permitting would protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery from damage caused by mining the Pebble Project. Alaskans are not sure what differences have occured in the level of enforcement of habitat protection since the transfer of Habitat Division from ADF&G. Some Alaskans believe that the Habitat Division under ADF&G would better protect the Bristol Bay fishery from pollution caused by mining in the drainage. Fish and wildlife protection has been under funded since the Hammond Administration.

    Recommendations: An evaluation of whether or not Habitat should remain in DNR or be transferred back to ADF&G will most likely contain an analysis on enforcement of current regulations. The MOU between ADF&G and DNR regarding transfer of the Habitat Division needs reviewed. I think it would be advantageous to Governor Palin to assure the Alaskan Public that DNR is making sure that development, conservation, and maximized use of natural resources is consistent with public interest.

    Nerka's writting on "AOC's position on Habitat Division" has nothing to do with the truth.

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    Default Disappointed

    I am really disappointed in AOC on this one. I did not believe they would come out in opposition to returning the habitat division to ADFG.

    Here's the way I see things. AOC has done, and continues to do, great things for Alaskan hunters and anglers. I applaud what they have done and I have profound respect for people like Dick Bishop and Rod Arno and Pat Valkenburg, who speak for them. But of late, and during the past administration, they have pushed for things that are biologically unsound and that go against any notion of prudent conservation of fish and wildlife.

    I am truly afraid of the direction Alaska's largest and most powerful "pro-hunting and fishing" voice is taking. One of the main things Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers stressed to the Palin F&G transition team was that Habitat Division must be restored to ADFG. We look at this as a no-brainer for any of us who hunt and fish. Lance Trasky summed up why much better than I can. For AOC to oppose this is simply...well, amazing. Words cannot express my disappointment.

    I have just one question for Rod Arno: Does AOC support the return of Habitat Divison to ADFG? It's a yes or no question. Perhaps that will allow us to determine if what Nerka said is true or not. Thank you.

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    In truth, doesn't the work of all state agencies reflect the ideas of the administration? Isn't that why new gov's pick new commissioners........to reflect their policies?
    I suspect it is just as easy for an administration to support, or squash, a project whether the review of that particular project comes from DNR or ADF&G. In the end, all state agencies are going to do what the governor wants them to do. Those that disagree will either quit, or be removed. it's worked thast way in the past.
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    Default Rod - tell us the truth.

    Rod, you stated my posted has nothing to do with the truth. Well, I challenge you to state what the truth is.

    I have a copy of the email sent by AOC (email at top is AOC@alaska.net). The section I quoted on ADF&G and OHMP was written by Dick Lebrvre, Ed Fogels, and Bill Jeffress. I will say that there is a comment that says these are draft positons for the Palin transition team members but the email was distributed by AOC to team members. Also, the section you posted is in the email but deals mostly with enforcement as an issue. So the question stands - what is AOC position on moving habitat protection back to ADF&G?

    The questions about where AOC is coming from is not lies just questions. You did not provide one rationale in your response to the question of why would AOC not support moving it back. In fact, you had no position on this which was different than the authors above.

    Take Mr. Traskey's comments - I tend to respect Mr. Traskey so AOC will have to come up with some good thoughts if they disagree. I have not seen them yet.

    If the AOC position has changed from 14 December then let us know. That is what is nice about an open and public process - we can see what positions organizations have - emails leave lots of tracking options.

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    I've got to agree with martentrapper post.......and AOC's recommendation posted by Mr. Arno.

    I've read a lot of speculation on why habitat should go back to ADF&G in this thread, but not one example of a "bad" permit issued in the past 4 years.

    Is this just fear of change and wanting to go back to the way it was just because it was "comfortable"???

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    From where I sit it is because of the basic direction each department is mandated to go. DNR is responsible for the development of Alaska's resources and protecting habitat is their secondary directive. The primary directive for ADF&G is protection of habitat,fisheries and game.. It isn't that DNR has done a bad job but rather that it is not the primary focus of the department. I think that ADF&G is more inclined to err on the side of caution where DNR might be more likely to take a slight risk in order to further development.

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    Default Example for people to consider

    In the recent regulation about 50 hp on the Kenai DNR, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, proposed a regulation that impacts aquatic habitats. They also are proposing to ban 2 stroke engines to reduce hydrocarbons.

    This is a serious matter so I contacted a high level person within Parks and asked if Parks, within DNR, asked their internal biologist in habitat to review and comment on the proposal. The answer was that Parks had not done so as there was no comments from them for the public to review.

    In contrast, if the habitat experts had been in ADF&G this proposal would have received a formal review by people like Mr. Traskey and a formal finding made. The public would have had an independent position to evaluate.

    So the problem with habitat in DNR is one of controlling the flow of information and even requesting a habitat review if the outcome may go against the agenda of another division in DNR.

  16. #16

    Default AOC position on Habitat Division

    First, let me say that I’m sorry I haven’t been able to spend much time here on these and other public forums. AOC is working on many issues, and it leaves me little time for on-line conversation. Members at times contact me to let me know when a few words might shed some light on our positions and what we are doing, so I dash in for a moment and jot a few lines that I hope will help clarify. Please understand that I’m not blithely ignoring questions and comments; I just don’t have time to do everything I think would be useful.

    Second, as with any organization, the Alaska Outdoor Council has both supporters and detractors. Taking controversial positions to protect the interests of Alaska outdoors people makes both friends and enemies for us. That’s the cost of being useful. To those who wonder what we are really about, please see our website www.alaskaoutdoorcouncil.org. We are not always depicted accurately by people who don’t care for the positions we have taken.

    Third, the opening post in this thread indicated that AOC had written the following:

    The Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC) in an email (dated 14 December 2006) sent to the Palin ADF&G transition team recommended that “ OHMP has demonstrated remarkable efficiency to an ever increasing workload…. and in reducing the average permit/project review time while still protecting the resources. There is no justification for continued discussion of reestablishing Habitat Division within ADF&G”

    No one in AOC wrote that. The document referred to in the post was an internal draft for transition team use. Many voices are in the transition team, and we do not agree with all of them, of course. Governor Palin wants to hear many perspectives, and ours is just one of them. Without having seen the email message referred to, I can only guess, but I believe that someone received a copy of the entire draft from me, assumed that AOC had written all of it, and forwarded that around. It’s discouraging that people would make such accusations without bothering to check the facts.

    Finally, on the issue of restoring the habitat protection function to ADFG, it is high time outdoors people had this debate.

    AOC’s number one purpose clearly stated in its bylaws is “To perpetuate the natural resource base upon which member groups activities depend;” Above all else that means first protecting Alaska’s habitats. The best answer is having both the Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Fish & Game (ADF&G) actively cooperating to protect these habitats.

    Restoring the habitat protection function to ADFG sounds good. It may ultimately prove the best solution. But if Alaska can achieve an even better overall protection of its habitats by a blending of interagency functions, then Alaska should do that.

    The original functions of the Habitat Division under ADF&G were:
    Anadromous stream cataloging
    Habitat assessments
    Restoration
    Project permitting

    What AOC would like to see is a review of Executive Order #107, which transferred some of the Title 16 functions to DNR, and the MOU between DNR and ADF&G regarding reviews of land and water activities. (These documents are available on the AOC website).

    After the new Commissioners of ADF&G and DNR have had the time to compare current levels of habitat protection with past records we would ask the Palin Administration to make corrections necessary to achieve habitat protection consistent with the “sustained-yield” clause enshrined in the Constitution of the State of Alaska.

    AOC wants solid professional analysis on the best course of action from professionals in these state agencies. We are willing to wait for that before committing to support one course of action over another.

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    Default AOC too cautious

    Rod

    I can appreciate your challenges in addressing everything controversial that comes up and then trying to defend your organizations position in an internet forum. I agree with you that the best solution to addressing habitat protection is having ADNR and ADFG working together in the best interest of the resource. With respect to water, I would add that the ADEC also needs to be engaged in habitat issues as well - where they are currently not.

    Over the past decade and in particular in the past 4-years would you say that the general direction of the previous administrations; have the agencies you mentioned moved toward a more cooperative and protective stance with our respect to our outdoor resources? Rhetorical, I know you’ve got other irons in the fire...

    I can assure you that what I have observed first hand. The centralizing in one department all the functions that had previously been distributed among various agencies, coupled with the stripping of local governments ability to engage in habitat issues through coastal zone management has absolutely eroded important protections that were previously afforded the commons we refer to as habitats. Balance among agencies and local govt.'s should be restored - its easy?

    AOC should be strong advocates of correcting these bad decisions. If you haven’t seen what I'm describing, then you haven’t been paying attention. I’m not saying that you haven’t seen it, but you seem to be walking a very careful line that shouldn’t be necessary based on what I’ve observed. - my opinion.

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    DNR-develop resources
    F&G protect habitat
    The comments DNR provides for some reveiws for plans is simply to insure their phone number is right. No comments what so ever on any habitat protection. My vote would got to sending it back to F&G.

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    Default email clarification

    I did receive the email from the transition team with the comment that these were AOC positions. Also, in the From section it stated

    From: AOC (aoc@alaska.net)

    Maybe someone is using the AOC computer to send messages but it sure does not have an individual's name - it says AOC.

    However, I agree that habitat protection is the issue and if AOC wants a review of the executive order and MOU then that is a good start. I would hope AOC leads the charge on this as they have the political muscle to get it done. The Board of Fish review indicated that the functions shoiuld come back to ADF&G.

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    Default Habitat Habitat Habitat...

    I am very pleased to see AOC state that their number one purpose is in "first protecting Alaska's habitats."

    But sadly that's a tough pill to swallow, considering all the things they supported and sponsored in the last four years.

    There already is, and was, plenty of "professional analysis" about moving habitat to DNR by executive order, and now about returning it to ADFG. And that professional analysis said it was a bad move to take authority and protection of fish and wildlife habitat away from ADFG, and put that authority in the hands of DNR. Furthermore, from all I can tell, professional biologists overwhelmingly support the return of habitat division to ADFG.

    What more analysis do we need? And why all this fence-riding that belies what AOC's primary mission is supposed to be? The answer to whether or not AOC supports a return of habitat to ADFG isn't an answer at all. I mean, c'mon, on the one hand they claim their number one priority is the protection of habitat, yet on the other they won't outright support a return of Habitat Division to ADFG?

    Here is a quote from the Alaska legislative news, back when Murkowski was considering moving Habitat from ADFG to DNR:
    In his State of the State address in January, Murkowski said the Habitat Division has delayed legitimate development projects, naming the Dorothy Lake hydroelectric project near Juneau, Totem Creek Inc.'s North Douglas golf course and the Southeast electrical intertie as examples.

    Shortly after the governor's speech five former Fish and Game commissioners came out in opposition to the move, noting state founders created two agencies to establish checks and balances between developers and regulators.

    The letter signed by commissioners Frank Rue, Carl Rosier, Don Collinsworth, Ron Skoog and Jim Brooks also stated: "Naturally, any regulatory agency has its critics, but if you think (the Alaska Department of Fish and Game) is being unreasonably restrictive on a given project, you as Governor, or you as commissioner of Fish and Game, have the authority to intervene."

    You know one name above that really stands out? It's Carl Rosier, who spoke for AOC on many issues before the legislature as their spokesperson! He worked for ADFG for nearly thirty years and finished his career as commissioner under Hickel.

    This is just common sense here on this one. Don't let the wool be pulled over your eyes. If you really want some other good background on this, check out these legislative minutes in which this was discussed:
    http://www.legis.state.ak.us/pdf/23/...-03-121830.PDF


    Read what the biologists who were in the Habitat division had to say. Read what other biologists, from across the state, who put their jobs on the line over this, had to say. Read about the gag order they were under not to comment in public about this.


    I'll say it again - this is a NO BRAINER!
    Disappointed evermore,


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