On Monday February 4th, the Alaska state legislature will consider Governor Dunleavy’s nomination of Doug Vincent-Lang to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G).
While the Alaska Wildlife Alliance does not endorse or oppose specific candidates, we strongly encourage our members' engagement in the process. This is an important opportunity to share your opinions on the qualifications you expect to see in a Commissioner.
Who is Doug Vincent-Lang?
Doug Vincent-Lang is Governor Dunleavy’s nomination for Commissioner of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, as well as the treasurer of Safari Club International Alaska Chapter and a director of the Outdoor Heritage Foundation of Alaska. In a January 2, 2019 letter to Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary Bernhardt, Doug Vincent-Lang (then Alaska’s acting Commissioner of Fish and Game) conveyed a 41 page laundry list of concessions sought by the administration of Governor Mike Dunleavy.
The request includes statutory amendments and suspension of regulations and policies governing national park lands, wildlife refuges, as well as habitat protections for federally listed threatened and endangered species. Specific items address a wide range of predator control and conservation issues, including:
Exempting Alaska from rules protecting eligible wilderness;
Suspending the Fish & Wildlife Service policy for biological Integrity, diversity, and environmental health on refuges; and
Equating economic impacts with biological need in designating critical habitats.
“Unfortunately, wildlife conservation in Alaska is hurtling back to the Dark Ages,” says Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility board member.
“The state wish-list reflects the longstanding agendas of oil, mining, and timber corporations, as well as outside trophy hunters. If I were a wolf or a bear in Alaska right now, I would be headed for the Canadian border, ASAP.”
Vincent-Lang also appointed three key leadership roles at the agency as acting Commissioner: Benjamin J. Mulligan to Deputy Commissioner, Edward K. Grasser to Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, and Rick Green as Special Assistant to the Commissioner.
Edward (Eddie) Grasser's appointment differs greatly from the long tradition of selecting an experienced wildlife biologist to lead the Division. While Grasser served for one year as special assistant to the Commissioner, his records indicate no additional administrative experience working for the state. Additionally, in 2018 Grasser registered to lobby state officials and legislators on behalf of the Safari Club’s Alaska chapter and, for Harris Consulting, on issues related to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Grasser served as a vice president for the Safari Club International Alaska Chapter and has a long history with big-game hunting in Alaska. His father, Marlin Grasser, owned and operated Alaska Guides and Outfitters before his death in 2009. It is worth noting that Grasser is related to Deputy Commissioner Mulligan - Grasser is Mulligan's uncle.
The Alaska Wildlife Alliance does not oppose hunting, but does share concerns with ethical hunters and conservationists across the state as to Mr. Grasser's qualifications in this role. To read more about AWA's philosophy on ethical hunting, please click here.
An additional surprise was the selection of Rick Green as Special Assistant to the Commissioner. Green signed off from his role as a radio announcer on KENI-AM 650 before starting his new position in January. Green has no formal experience in the wildlife management field, aside from working as a hunting guide, and did not finish high school but received a GED after moving to Alaska. Read more, from the Anchorage Daily News about the appointees here.
Why is this important?
The Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is extremely important in determining the fate of many Alaskan wildlife species. The Office of the Commissioner is responsible for upholding the department’s mission, guiding principles, core services, and goals for the benefit of all Alaskans.
The Office of the Commissioner provides leadership and direction for the department by establishing policy and coordinating agency strategy for the protection, management, conservation, and restoration of Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources. Commissioner’s office staff provide executive level oversight of department activities and services, and serve as liaisons with the governor’s office, legislature, congressional offices, other government agencies, native tribes and organizations, and Alaska’s fish and wildlife resource stakeholder groups.
All this work is to further the mission of ADF&G, which is to “protect, maintain, and improve the fish, game, and aquatic plant resources of the state, and manage their use and development in the best interest of the economy and the well-being of the people of the state, consistent with the sustained yield principle.”
As such, the agency developed guiding principles to carry out its responsibility under the state and federal law. According to these principles, the agency will:
Provide for the greatest long-term opportunities for people to use and enjoy Alaska’s fish, wildlife, and habitat resources.
Improve public accessibility to, and encourage active involvement by the public in, the department’s decision-making processes.
Build a working environment based on mutual trust and respect between the department and the public, and among department staff.
Maintain the highest standards of scientific integrity and provide the most accurate and current information possible.
Foster professionalism in department staff, promote innovative and creative resource management, and provide ongoing training and education for career development.
Further, Article 8 of Alaska’s State Constitution reads that it is “the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.” Note that “public interest” reflects the diverse interests of Alaska’s citizenry, not just the voices of a few.
What is the Commissioner confirmation process?
In accordance with AS 44.39.030: The governor appoints the Commissioner of Fish and Game from a list of qualified persons nominated by the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game meeting in joint session (Doug Vincent Lang was the only candidate to apply). The appointment must then confirmed by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session. The Commissioner of Fish and Game serves at the pleasure of the governor and may not be appointed for a fixed term.
What can you do?
1. Present formal public testimony to the Senate Resources Committee hearing. One need not be in Juneau to do so; testimony by telephone is common.
2. Contact members of the Senate Resources Committee by letter, email, or telephone in advance of the hearing.
Senate Resource Committee members are available through the following:
Senator Chris Birch, Chair
Senator John Coghill, Vice Chair
Senator Click Bishop
Senator Cathy Giessel
Senator Lora Reinbold
Senator Scott Kawasaki
Senator Jesse Kiehl
3. Contact your own Senator and Representative to express your opinions. Find your Senator here!
4. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Find contact information for Alaska-based publications here!
This is an extremely important confirmation that warrants your time and input. Speak up for wildlife and make your voice heard in this process.