Laws for the SEA Interview with Gov. Palin on Fisheries Issues

The following article by Bob Tkacz was in the Laws for the SEA Vol 13 #15 April 30, 2007 and was reprinted with his permission. 

 

THE PALIN INTERVIEW, 2007

YOUNG GOVERNOR STILL DEVELOPING FISHERIES POLICIES

Laws for the SEA interviewed Gov Sarah Palin on April 5. Over the course of almost 40 minutes the governor, then four months in office, indicated she is still developing many policies and initiatives. Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd and Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Nizich sat in on the interview in her office in Juneau.

Here’s what the governor had to say.

LFTS: WHAT’S YOUR PLAN FOR GULF OF ALASKA RATIONALIZATION?

PALIN: “I’m glad that we’ve been able to request the stay for more consideration to be given on gulf rats and the impacts because my understanding is there have been some adverse impacts on the communities with the idea of gulf rats, specifically job loss which hurts our communities, hurts our fishing families. I’m studying the impacts still and they’ll provide me with the information.

LFTS: DO YOU HAVE A FINAL GOAL AS OPPOSED TO THE SPECIFICS OF HOW TO GET THERE, OTHER THAN THROUGH THE COUNCIL PROCESS? WHAT WOULD BE THE FORM OF THAT NEW SYSTEM WHENEVER GULF OF ALASKA GROUNDFISH IS RATIONALIZED?

PALIN: “That council will be able to provide me information on what they’re finding, again in the way of impacts and I haven’t received that information yet, so, no.”

LFTS: WHAT IS YOUR TIMEFRAME?

PALIN: “It was an 18-month stay initially. I would anticipate when that time period is up we would have that information.” (Commissioner Denby Lloyd reminded the governor that the 18 month period related to the Bering Sea crab fishery and that she had written to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council asking for a freeze on Gulf of Alaska groundfish rationalization at least until this October.)LFTS: DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR CHANGES TO THE CDQ SYSTEM?PALIN: “Denby and I were talking about that also and their impacts to Alaska. They’re fundamental. Do you mind if these guys chime in at any time also as it relates to administration’s policies as we’recrafting our policies?”

LFTS: IF YOU NEED HINTS GO AHEAD.

PALIN: “I don’t need any hints, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page. For instance,  Denby just was able to be a participant in the North Pacific meetings over the last week. I wasn’t. Anything maybe that Denby has been able to learn I haven’t been privy to yet, here’s an opportunity to share with me today.”COMMISSIONER LLOYD: “CDQ’s themselves haven’t been on the agenda recently. As far as I’m concerned we don’t have any specific plans to change the CDQ program, but there were recent amendments considered in the Magnuson Act. We’re still trying to understand what those mean. We don’t have a plan laid out for particular changes.”

LFTS: DO YOU SUPPORT CDQS IN THE GULF OF ALASKA?

PALIN: “With some of these areas where CDQs have been a success, it makes sense to take those successes and plug those into other communities, other areas. Again, I’m still studying the impacts on it. Four months into office, before coming into office I didn’t work with CDQs so I would not have known what the impacts were or the significance or the adverse effects. That’s what I’m learning.”

LFTS: IT’S A TOUCHY SUBJECT IN THE GULF. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WOULD CONSIDER? I DON’T WANT TO OVERSTATE WHAT YOU’RE CONSIDERING.

PALIN: “I’m going to consider what the successes have been in other parts of Alaska in terms of CDQ and see if those be plugged into other regions as the local communities may be requesting. It’s part of the broad administrative policy we’re crafting with fisheries.”

LFTS: WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE TO YOU ON A FEDERAL FISH FARMING BILL IN THE US ECONOMIC ZONE?

PALIN: “I have great concerns over the Bush administration’s fish farming bill that has recently surfaced. We just did a presser on that articulating what our concerns are. I certainly will hope that the federal government will listen to Alaskans on this. “It’s an issue that I also got to speak to also yesterday with the premier of British Columbia on this. We have our differences there with fish farms. It’s not just our federal government but it’s the Canadian government also that I will certainly hope will listen to Alaskans.”

LFTS: DID THE PREMIER GIVE YOU ANY INDICATION B.C. WOULD LISTEN? THE PROVINCE HAS NOT LISTENED TO THE LAST TWO GOVERNORS?

PALIN: “We agreed to disagree on whether fish farms are good or not good in our waters and we  don’t have to have a relationship that’s adversarial about it. He’s assured me that there’s strict enforcement of regulations that will allow that safety net around our waters essentially to make sure there aren’t the escapees. All those things we fear about fish farms being close to Alaska he’s assured me and I’ve told him that we have to trust that his government will have the strict enforcement of thoseprotective measures.”

LFTS: IS THE 12-MILE STATE WATERS EXCLUSION ZONE PROPOSED IN THE US FISH FARMING BILL SUFFICIENT?

PALIN: “We have concerns about the entire bill. If you want to talk to Denby about what some of  our advisors have expressed on that one, too.”LLOYD: “The 12-miles isn’t really sufficient because fish can swim 12 miles pretty quickly. The idea of spreading disease or crossbreeding genetics impacts, the 12 miles doesn’t provide us the protection we’re looking for.”

LFTS: YOU WOULD WANT A TOTAL STATE OPT-OUT PROVISION SUCH AS SEN. TED STEVENS IS SEEKING?

PALIN: “That would be our ideal.”

COMMISSIONER LLOYD MENTIONED IN A HEARING YESTERDAY THAT THERE HAD BEEN AMENDMENTS TO THE ADF&G DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES MEMORANDUM ON HABITAT PERMIT REVIEWS. HAVE YOU REACHED A DECISION ON WHERE THAT DIVISION WILL FIND A HOME IN YOUR ADMINISTRATION?

PALIN: “Commissioner (Tom) Irwin and Denby are still gathering information on that and will present that to me.”

LFTS: ANY IDEA WHEN YOU’LL HEAR FROM THEM?

PALIN: “No.”

LLOYD: “The governor hasn’t set a deadline for us yet. We’ve had one meeting already. We’re going to be doing some staff work over the next month or so and prepare some information for the governor’s consideration later this year.”

LFTS: YOUR OCTOBER 11, 2006 CAMPAIGN RELEASE ON FISHERIES ISSUES SAID YOU WOULD NOT SUPPORT THE USE OF MIXING ZONES IN WATERS WHERE FISH ARE USED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION, YET YOUR ADMINISTRATION HAS TESTIFIED AGAINST THE BILL THAT WOULD REMOVE THE MURKOWSKI ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS THAT BAN MIXING ZONES ONLY SALMON SPAWNING AREAS.

PALIN: “The bipartisan legislation that addresses this … There is support in this administration for regulations that are on the books now that do allow us a comfort level ensuring that we have some protections there. It’s another one of those issues, mixing zones and the habitat issue that you and I talked about, probably right after I got elected in one of our first interviews, about giving it time to study all the ramifications because these are very significant issues. Four months into office hasn’t been enough time for me to direct staff to be 100 percent opposed or 100 percent for the proposal to change that law.”

LFTS: BUT YOUR ADMINISTRATION IS ALREADY ON RECORD OPPOSING THE BILL.

PALIN: “Read my quote.”

FROM YOUR THE OCT. 11, 2006 RELEASE TITLED “PALIN SHOWS SUPPORT FOR ALASKA FISHERMAN: “Palin does not support the use of mixing zones in waters where there are fish used for human consumption. ‘The Murkowski administration developed regulations that changed the requirements for mixingzones,’ said Palin. ‘The proposal made by the current administration to allow seasonal discharges won’t work because Alaskans eat fish from our rivers and lakes all year.”PALIN: “Well, you know, that House Bill, it’s going through the process now. We’re giving input. I

 don’t know what the status is on that bill now. There’s still information being gathered on that issue that is being presented to me now and more will be presented in the future.”

LFTS: WHY ARE YOUR PEOPLE TESTIFYING AGAINST THE BILL IF YOU’RE STILL IN THE STUDY MODE?

PALIN: “Because there are protections there with existing mixing zone regulations that we’re comfortable with.”

LFTS: EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE MUCH LOWER FOR ANY OTHER SPECIES THAN SALMON?

PALIN: “We’re still deciding what the policy is going to be on that one.”

LFTS: THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF DISCUSSION ABOUT THE PROCESS FOR COMMISSIONER LLOYD’S APPOINTMENT AND THE FACT THAT THE BOARDS OF FISH AND GAME ONLY NOMINATED ONE NAME FOR YOU TO APPOINT. THIS ISN’T THE FIRST TIME THAT A GOVERNOR HAS RECEIVED ONLY A SINGLE NAME, BUT DO YOU BEAR ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR THAT?

PALIN: “What’s the controversy, that it’s Denby or that it was only one name?

SOME OF BOTH.

PALIN: “Let’s address the first controversy being Denby. He is my pick. I confirmed the name that  the board brought to me. I could go on and on the reasons why he’s the right person for Alaska for Fish & Game. “The second part of the controversy, you say, is only one name was brought forward? I didn’t tell the board to give me a name or a dozen names.”

LFTS: IT WAS PRETTY WELL KNOWN THAT DENBY WAS YOUR CHOICE FOR COMMISSIONER.

PALIN: “Obviously, or I wouldn’t have asked for him to serve as acting commissioner.”

LFTS: STATE LAW NOW SAYS THE JOINT BOARDS SUBMIT A LIST OF NOMINEES, WHICH LEGAL COUNSEL HAS SAID CAN CONSIST OF A SINGLE NAME. SHOULD IT BE CHANGED TO REQUIRE MORE THAN

  ONE NAME?PALIN: “I wouldn’t propose any kind of change in the law in the way it reads today. If the lawmakers want to change that’s their prerogative and we’ll see a proposed change if they feel that burden to do so. I think at the end of the day Alaskans are going to be extremely thankful for Denby accepting the position.”

LFTS: WHAT’S THE STATUS OF YOUR POLICY ADVISOR?

PALIN: “Interviewing people, taking resumes and still feeling folks out on their fit on this team.”

LFTS: WHEN DO YOU EXPECT TO HIRE SOMEONE?

PALIN: “Hopefully soon because we’re inundating Mike Nizich, and Denby, and others with so many fisheries issues. It will be helpful to have a third floor person to help take some of that burden off and help coordinate some of these efforts. I owe it to these gentlemen to do it soon.”

LFTS: ARE YOU TO THE POINT OF HAVING A SHORT LIST?

PALIN: “The final selection should be shortly, yes.”

LFTS: A MATTER OF DAYS OR WEEKS?

PALIN: “I don’t know because the logistics of a couple of the potential candidates still have to be worked out in terms of they being able to speak with their present employers and families. I don’t want to speak for the candidates.”

(LFTS; AS OF APRIL 27 THE POSITION HAD NOT BEEN FILLED.)

(Position has been filled by Cora Crome who starts work on May 9th. – SEAFA)

LFTS: TALKING TO LLOYD AND NIZICH BOTH, IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS PERSON WILL NOT BE THE POLICY HEAD, OR CZAR SORT OF POSITION. THEY WON’T BE THE POLICY HEAD FOR FISHERIES ISSUES.

PALIN: “They’re going to be working as a member of the team.”

LFTS: WILL THE POSITION HAVE POLICY POWERS/ WHAT WILL BE THE DUTIES OF THE POST?

PALIN: “Our fish and game commissioner will be the policy advisor, the big guru there, the czar.  This person will be assisting, having and appropriate and significant role on the team.”

LFTS: YOUR OCTOBER PAPER SAID YOU WOULD HAVE A ‘STRONG LEAD PERSON IN THE GOVERNORS’ S OFFICE ON FISHERIES AND OCEAN POLICY WHO WILL FOCUS ON THERE ISSUES.” THAT SOUNDS LIKE A CHANGE

PALIN: “Denby, he’s the policy advisor. That’s not inconsistent at all with any kind of campaign  promise. We’ve got him in Denby. We’ve got him also in Mike Nizich. A lot of help from Mike Tibbles, even on fisheries and our third floor fisheries person whom we’re speaking of now will be a part of that also.

LFTS: SO DENBY WILL BE YOUR CHIEF FISHERIES POLICY ADVISOR, FISHERIES COMMISSIONER AND CZAR?PALIN: “You can characterize Denby’s role as not only fish and came commissioner but also fisheries policy advisor to me.”

LLOYD: “Don’t call me czar, please, governor.”

LFTS: WHAT IS YOUR LONG TERM PLAN FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME BUDGET. THE INDUSTRY ARGUMENT FOR A HIGHER BUDGET IS THAT IT TRANSLATES INTO MORE OPENINGS, MORE STATE AND LOCAL TAXES AND A MORE PROFITABLE PROFITABLE PRIVATE SECTOR. YOU’VE TREATED THEM PRETTY WELL THIS YEAR.

PALIN: “I tend to agree with that principle there that an upfront investment in our fish and wildlife  resources, in management of, results in a stronger economy here in Alaska. Some specifics in the budget that this go-round I wasn’t able to study as in depth as I want to be able to study for next go round will be salaries. I want to make sure we’re able to recruit and retain the biologists that we need here in the state. “You know, ultimately, as we make decisions based on biology, based on scientific data that we need in order to have a very trustworthy policy foundation here we have to make sure we have the best biologists in the world in Alaska. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t. “Fish and game resources are that important to me and this administration that I want to make sure we have the best managing our resources so salary is going to be an aspect of the budget that I want to pay close attention to.”

LFTS: IT SOUNDS LIKE THE DEPARTMENT CAN EXPECT YOU TO PROPOSE BUDGET INCREASES, WHETHER OR NOT THE LEGISLATURE GOES ALONG WITH THEM.

PALIN: “I’m not going to get out there and promise an increase in salary to persons without having  very, very good information in front of me, but I want to make sure we’re not losing our people to the feds, to the private sector also. We need the best managing our resources here.”

LFTS: ARE WE DOING THAT NOW? WE SEEM TO BE LOSING BIOLOGISTS?

PALIN: “We are losing them. We’re losing too many of them. That’s a red flag. We had to, of course,  roll out our budget 11 days after we were sworn in. That wasn’t enough time to study the salary issue with Fish & Game.”

LFTS: SO OVERALL THE DEPARTMENT CAN EXPECT BUDGET INCREASES RATHER THAN DECREASES?

PALIN: “I believe there will be a manifestation of our support for the tools needed by fish and game  personnel and the salaries required to recruit and retain the best in our department. There will be that manifestation in our next budget.”

LFTS: HOW ABOUT RESEARCH FUNDING? THE DEPARTMENT DOESN’T DO ANYTHING THAT COULD BE CALLED PURE RESEARCH AND A LOT

  OF PEOPLE SAY THAT’S NEEDED FOR EXPANSION INTO NEW SPECIES.PALIN: “We need to be better coordinators with our university system there and make sure that the  funding of our university is going toward the research in wildlife and fish management measures that we need here. “An aspect of future funding issues is better coordination with the university in their research. I can’t promise more money. What I can promise is, our mission here is to be more efficient in the way that we’re operating state government, all aspects of it, including research and monies going to the university where those dollars are ending up and I’d like to see better coordination there between an entity like the university receiving such a large amount of money and a department life Fish & Game that is so important to our economy and our culture.”

LFTS: ALMOST EVERY DAY A LAWMAKER MAKES A REFERENCE TO THE FACT THAT WE’RE GOING TO BE IN A DEFICIT SITUATION, PERHAPS BY FISCAL YEAR 2009. WHAT’S YOUR PLAN FOR DOING THE THINGS YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT TO SUFFICIENTLY FUND ADF&G AND ALL THE DEPARTMENTS UNTIL GAS PIPELINE REVENUES ARE AVAILABLE?

PALIN: “That’s why we’re so concerned about AGIA and getting the gasline project underway and  hopefully sticking with our timeline with AGIA so we can see fieldwork in the summer of ’08 and get going on it. Each year we delay is another one-point-something billion dollar delay to the State of Alaska. “As the lieutenant governor and I said right after being sworn in also in crafting that first budget, we have got to start living within our means here in Alaska. We have got to start prioritizing and priorities for me and for Sean Parnell, they’re pretty basic and pretty simple. It’s not a lot of frills it’s public safety, basic infrastructure, education. “As I’ve already expressed, my commitment to fish and game, here in Alaska, management for abundance there, not only for the good of our economy but for continuation of so many positive aspects of Alaska’s culture. Those are our priorities and working with the legislature through the budget process focusing on those four priorities and building the budget around those, that’s what our philosophy is going to be in the next four years.”

LFTS: SO IS IT YOUR PLAN TO CUT BUDGETS TO FIT REVENUE OR TO SEEK NEW REVENUES TO MEET YOUR PRIORITIES BETWEEN NOW AND GASLINE REVENUES?

PALIN: “Right now we’re very blessed. Today I think oil is $63 and some cents again. We have to  be fiscally conservative in our budgeting. We can’t be spending more than we’re bringing in. Right now we have a surplus. We’re going to sock away that surplus to the greatest degree possible that the legislature will let us cushion ourselves for when the price of oil drops again until the gasline comes on line.

LFTS: WILL SPORT FISHING HAVE TO PAY MORE TO SUPPORT ITSELF? IT SEEMS LIKE THE FISH & GAME FUND IS NOT LARGE ENOUGH ANY MORE TO SUPPORT THAT AND HUNTING AND TRAPPING FOR THAT MATTER?

PALIN: “I don’t want to have to raise hunting and fishing license fees. I’m probably going to get out there and feel the wrath of tourists when I say this but if we’re going to raise fees it’s going to be on nonresidents. It’s not going to be on the people who live here who rely on the personal use fisheries and hunting and Comfish also, it wouldn’t be on the residents of Alaska. “But that’s part, too, of the budget process that, in just a few months in office I haven’t been able to be privy to all the kind of information that would enable me to say yeah or nay to what kind of fees the state would be looking at in the future.” “Another thing that Sean Parnell and I did in the budget was come in and propose fees and taxes that are nuisances to Alaskans and get rid of them, the tire tax and the fees that were put in place by the prior administration, get rid of them and send a message that we want people doing business here, and those things that, in some respects cost government more than they do take in almost, we want to get rid of them. “When I look at fishing and hunting fees that will be a consideration.”

LFTS: NEITHER OF THE BILLS TO ELIMINATE TIRE TAXES OR CUT BUSINESS LICENSE FEES HAS BEEN ADVANCING. REP. BILL THOMAS FROM HAINES, SAID SEVERAL WEEKS AGO WHEN YOU WERE PROPOSING A $4 MILLION CUT TO THE FISH & GAME BUDGET, THAT HE WOULD OPPOSE THE BUSINESS LICENSE REDUCTION, WHICH COINCIDENTALLY IS PROJECTED TO CUT STATE REVENUES ABOUT $4 MILLION. THOMAS SAID EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A RELATIVELY SMALLAMOUNT OF INCOME WE ARE COMING TO THE POINT WHERE EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS.

PALIN: “It is a tiny bit of revenue, relatively speaking. We have a nearly an $8 billion budget here in  the State of Alaska and to give up, if you will, a sliver of that revenue to send that message that we want activity here in Alaska, we want revitalization of small business, we want to be able to help the Mom & Pops, I ‘m willing to give up that $4 million. I think it’s going to spur more activity. “Maybe we have a different way of thinking about government’s proper role. I think government’s proper role should be, in some sense, to get out of the way and let the private sector create opportunities. Don’t burden them with nuisance fees and those things that would stymie activity or stymie progress.

“That’s what I did in the city of Wasilla when I first came in. We came in there when I was first elected we got rid of personal property taxes. We got rid of business license renewal fees. We reduce real property tax levies. We did all these things that we could. I had a very cooperative city council, so that helped. It was a true team effort. It did spur activity. We sent the message that you don’t have to be in the town next door in big city Anchorage, come to our town and participate in this economy and it will grow and it did. We had tremendous economic indicators of success with that type of philosophy into the state of Alaska.”

LFTS: WHY DOESN’T EVERY DOLLAR COUNT?

PALIN: “Every dollar is going to count when we get into … well, every dollar counts anyway, but  today we have tremendous surplus right now. The sky isn’t falling today and it’s our opportunity right now to start living within our means and start being disciplined with our budget but to give up $4 million. I’m going to trust him that it’s a $4 million hit but out of nearly $8 billion that operates this state, I’d be willing to give that up to spur activity.” 

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